Published by Penguin on 1989
Genres: Classics, Fiction, Young Adult
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This Penguin Classics edition of Louisa May Alcott's inspiring tale of sisterhood, Little Women, is edited with an introduction by Elaine Showalter. The charming story of four 'little women' - Meg, Jo, Amy and Beth - and their wise and patient mother Marmee, was an instant success when first published in 1868. Enduring hardships and enjoying adventures in Civil War New England, the March sisters have been adored for generations. Readers have rooted for Laurie in his pursuit of Jo's hand, cried over little Beth's death, and dreamed of travelling through Europe with old Aunt March and Amy. Future writers have found inspiration in Jo's devotion to her writing. In this simple, enthralling tale, both parts of which are included here, Louisa May Alcott has created four of American literature's most beloved women. In her enlightening, thoughtful introduction, Elaine Showalter discusses Louisa May Alcott's influences, and her aspirations for Little Women, as well as the impact the novel has had on such women writers as Joyce Carol Oates and Cynthia Ozick. This edition also includes notes on the text by Siobhan Kilfeather and Vinca Showalter.Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) grew up surrounded by American writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau. Drawing on her experience as a volunteer nurse in the Union Army during the American Civil War, she published Hospital Sketches in 1863, followed by gothic romances and lurid thrillers such as A Modern Mephistopheles and A Long Fatal Love Chase. In 1868, she published Little Women, which proved so popular that it was followed by two sequels. If you enjoyed Little Women you might like Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives and Daughters, also available in Penguin Classics.
I’m sure everyone reading this blog has heard of Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, be it through the various movie adaptations, school, or even through a children’s illustrated classics edition. I can remember when I was little, my parents would often bring home Great Illustrated Classics after a visit to the super market. If we (my sisters and I) were good we would get to pick out a Great Illustrated Classics book for the week. Little Women was one of the first Great Illustrated Classics books we got. The version I read as a child was definitely the abridged GIC version. This probably sounds elitist of me, but I do not count reading an abridged book as actually reading the book. I mean, I’m sure some people will claim to have read the book, when really, they read the abridged version, which is fine, I won’t criticize, but in my personal reading life, I just can’t count it.
So, when I got an ereader for Christmas I was looking for free ebooks online, imagine my joy when coming across a ton of free classics! (FYI for those who own an ereader, I recommend http://www.manybooks.net). When I say free, I mean legal free, as in books in the public domain. I promptly put Little Women on my ereader and began reading.
First of all, I went into Little Women by Louisa May Alcott with a few prejudices from my GIC days. First of all, I knew who got with Laurie, and had assumed that character to be a hussy. Let me just say, I was wrong in this opinion. By reading the full version of Little Women, I fell in love with the March girls. They each embodied different characteristics which I admire. There is Meg -independent and fiercely loyal. There is Amy– she’s a flirt and an artist. There is Beth–she’s basically a gentle soul. I loved getting to know the girls. They made the best of their poverty and kept positive attitudes.
Some of the morals can be seen as rather outdated, i.e. be a good wife, have kids, and obey your husband, he knows all. Just because I disagreed with some of the ideals of what makes a perfect woman did not mean I disliked Little Women. I mean, here’s the thing, at the time Little Women was written women were judged by how well the kept house and by their baby making capabilities. Women were expected to be pure and pious, and joyous about housework. The times, they have a changed. I find it amusing that I was almost nostalgic for a simpler time while reading this book, knowing that I am one of those people who would never ever be happy in the role of the pure, pious joyful housewife (hating cooking and chores as much as I do).
Originally, Little Women was published for children. I find it fascinating how much children’s lit has changed from the 1800s. I mean, just compare the language of Little Women to whatever it is the kids are reading these days. I don’t say this is a terrible thing, just interesting how literature evolves over time. Personally, I think there are some lessons in this book kids these days can do with learning, such as when life sucks don’t bitch about it, keep your chin up and maintain a good attitude, complaining won’t change a thing. I also loved how close the family was and how much they adored and cared for one another. I guess I was raised with similar values, money can’t buy family ties, at the end of the day family is all that matters, etc.
The writing within Little Women is quite readable for a classic, it is after all a young adult/children’s classic. I know some people, i.e. my boyfriend who opened up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies then set it aside because the language on the page was too hard to read, tend to avoid classics because the language may not be what they are used to, or formal compared to how we speak today. I say, have no fear with Little Women, it’s really not hard to translate into the modern. It’s rather easy to decipher Alcott. I totally recommend cracking this book open.
While reading Little Women, I recommend drinking Strawberry Cordial. It’s basically strawberry, sugar, and vodka. It’s also one of those drinks which somehow makes me think of the 19th century which is when Little Women was published. Strawberry Cordial is a sweet drink which should be had while reading a sweet book.