Little Women

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott This is really lovely story about family. I found the sister dynamic to be heartfelt and realistic. I know that some people think that the sisters' fights were a little intense, but in my opinion that is how families fight. Sometimes you can say worse things to your siblings than you can say to your enemies, because they Jo was my favorite character. She was tremendously flawed--bad-tempered, impatient, and caustic when provoked--but she was also the least rigid in her beliefs. Her witticisms with Laurie were welcome comic relief to a story that focused so much on tragedy and religious devotion. While I'm sure this wasn't her intention, Alcott also defied a few clich├ęs of fiction. For one, she squashed the idea that all boy-girl friendships end up romanced. Laurie and Jo are best friends, but not lovers and I appreciated that she showed that friendships can be twice as meaningful as any romantic relationship. In addition, I also liked that Alcott didn't make Beth a victim. Oftentimes the quiet characters are written off as weak because they are shy and defenseless when they're nice. Beth is sweet and soft-spoken, but she is also, emotionally, the strongest character in the story. She is the one who wins over their cantankerous neighbor, who bravely continues to conquer her fear of social interactions, and who inspires Jo to write again. One issue I had with the story, and it's something I've heard other readers mention, is the very old-fashioned notion that women can only be happy if they are married with children. My favorite passage of this story is when the March sisters and Laurie dream of their "castles in the sky," and they pick independent dreams. However in the same chapter it is insisted (for the umpteenth time) that women can only find true joy in that "of wife and mother." While Alcott insists on finding sympathy for old maids, she also pities them. Obviously, times have changed and back then women were expected to marry and have babies, but it popped up so often that it irritated me. I still really connected with the story, but this is why it's getting a 4-star rating instead of 5.