Little Women

I find it hard to read classics, because there’s a big chance you already know what happens in the story and so many people before you have already read it and probably said everything there is to say. Despite that there is something interesting in reading a book that is so well-known and loved and to share something with so many people. Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women is one of those novels that I’ve been think of reading for some time now but haven’t gotten around to until now. It’s a very special story and I had great hopes for it but was ultimately disappointed.

We meet four little women at the start of the book. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy who are no younger than twelve but no older than sixteen. The Civil War has taken their father away from them to join the fight and the girls live together with their mother and their help Hannah in a modest but sweet little home. The girls have high hopes for their futures and are dutiful girls who learns, or try to learn, how to grow into being lovely women. After befriending their neighbor, Laurie, the girls have small adventures with him and slowly the years pass and the girls transform into a more mature version of themselves, but they never stop caring for each other.

The story stretches over nearly fifteen years and the readers get to follow the four girls when they move into womanhood and all that comes with it. It’s a very sweet story and I thought it was fun to see how they all changed and what ultimately became of them. I can definitely see why it’s so beloved, although at times I had a hard time putting my finger on what made it so special. It isn’t action-packed and filled to the brim with exiting adventures that explode from the page, but rather normal, ordinary moments and problems and things I so easily could relate to, even though the novel is nearly 150 years old by now. Maybe that’s the thing that makes it so easy to like – because it’s so easy to see yourself in it.

I don’t know if many boys and men read this novel but I suspect it’s mostly a book that attracts women. However, I do think it would be interesting for a man to read it because Alcott writes in a very special way making the story extraordinary despite it being rather plain. It’s just a tale about four sisters and their attempts at trying to find their way in the world, which mostly consists of trying to find a suitable husband. I got very invested in the four little women and had moments when I found the novel very hard to put down.

Despite this I felt disappointed when I finished it. I was almost halfway through when I thought it was one of the best book I’ve read for some time, but when I had something like a hundred or so pages left it went downhill and everything that came after only annoyed me. I tried to keep an open mind but didn’t succeed and when I was a chapter or two away from reaching the finish line I was so irritated by what had happened that I almost considered not even reading the last part. I did, in the end, but was none the better for it.

The four girls all have very strong personalities setting themselves apart. Meg is the oldest and a lovely young woman who works hard but wishes she had more money and a nice husband to lean on. Jo comes after and she is extremely strong-headed, has a temper and has said that she won’t marry at all. After her comes fragile and shy Beth, who mostly stays at home and helps minding the house. Amy is the youngest, she’s sweet and adorable and dreams of a place in society and a marriage to a rich man.

Every one of the girls stands out in her own way but I took a liking to Jo very fast. She has such a strong will and works so hard but doesn’t get much off it. She was the one who fought the hardest and never seemed to get a reward and seeing her struggles made my heart soften for her. But the biggest reason that I like her is not because of that but rather that she was independent and always did what she wanted and said what she thought without a care in the world for what was proper and she never tried to be good just to get people to like her for something she wasn’t. I found her a role model and she must’ve been that to many girls and women over the years, especially since she lived in a day and age when women weren’t supposed to raise their voices and do what they pleased.

Beth and Meg were lovely in their own way. Beth was someone I liked more for while Meg annoyed me at times, Beth was always sweet and gentle in a most wonderful way. The fourth and last sister, Amy, is the one I truly disliked. I never really liked her because, though coming from a poor family, she always seemed to try and be better and make herself more until she almost forgot herself. But after she burned Jo’s manuscript out of sheer spite quite early in the book I turned my back on her and despised her throughout the rest of the novel. She was portrayed to be extremely beautiful, very graceful and quite talented in art. Her goodness was constantly shoved down my throat and the better she looked on page, the more everyone loved her, the more I hated her. She was too good and nothing bad seemed ever to happen to her. She got everything she wanted and yet whined when something didn’t go her way, like when she was sent away to live with her aunt when Beth got sick and they just wanted to protect Amy from not falling ill. I can barely remember when I last was so annoyed by a character as I was with Amy and for a long time she was the sole reason why the novel wasn’t one of the best I’ve ever read.

The other reason why I wasn’t happy after finishing was Jo’s fate. I don’t want to spoil anything, though many might already know what happens to her, but I will say that I wasn’t happy with where she ended up. She was such a strong and powerful character for the bigger part of the novel and to see her go from that to who she became in the end was like a slap in the face. I realize this book was written a long time ago but that does not lessen my disappointment.

I also noticed that there were some things that were repeated a fair amount of time which also bothered me, but not as much as the previously mentioned reasons. There was also one specific part of the book that made me so very angry but that the characters didn’t seem to think odd at all. They were all so sweet and gentle and forgiving and that got me even more riled up.

Overall it was a good book, but not a great one. I would’ve liked to see a much different ending, and altogether a much different last hundred pages. It was fun to read it, however, and I might come back to it later, but for now Little Women shall rest on my shelf until I’ve come to terms with what happened and at least try to swallow some of my annoyance of Amy. I do think this is a novel worth reading and do recommend, to both man and woman.