Trigger Warning: This novel and it’s review contain descriptions of and mention the following topics: illness, death.
Goodreads Rating: 5 Stars
Year Published: 1868
One of the most iconic examples of sisterhood goes to Alcott’s Little Women.
In the novel, narrated mostly from the perspective of Josephine “Jo” March, is book about four sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. Their father has joined the Union Army in the Civil War, and their mother, Marmee, is determined to raise strong, self-sufficient and independent daughters. Meg is the classic beauty, Jo is the tomboy with a passion for writing, Beth is the sweet and shy one, and Amy is the feisty, youthful one.
These women are living in poverty without their father to support them financially, but they still display great charity to those who are less fortunate than them. Their well-to-do neighbor rewards their kindness by sending them a feast at Christmas, and gets the two eldest daughters, Meg and Jo, invited to a Christmas party. There, Jo hides in an alcove and meets Laurie, their neighbor’s nephew. When her sister twists her ankle at while dancing, he escorts them both home, and this sparks a new friendship.
From there, the girls and Laurie have many adventures, mishaps, and squabbles, but despite all, they remain close, and often end up defending each other from outside gossip. During this period, Jo writes a manuscript, and it ends up being published. She is excited about the prospect of being able to support her family with it’s earnings. However, before anything can happen, they receive a telegram that states Mr. March is ill at a hospital in Washington, DC, and Marmee is determined to go to his aid. Jo decides to cut and sell her hair to fund Marmee’s trip.
In the second part of the book, three years have passed. Mr. March is back from the war, Jo is looking forward to traveling to Paris with her Aunt, Meg has married and had children. Then, things take a turn as Jo’s aunt recruits Amy for her trip because she is more ladylike. So, Jo is left behind, and in turn finds that Beth, sickly after her brush with scarlett fever, has feelings for Laurie, who has shared his affection for Jo. Hoping that Laurie will be won over by Beth, Jo leaves for NYC and meets Professor Bhaer, with whom she falls in love for. Beth ends up passing away, and Laurie leaves for Paris- in turn, running into Amy, mending his heartbreak over Jo, and falling in love with Amy.
As the novel comes to a close, Alcott wraps up each of the surviving sister’s lives, each thankful for each other and their family. The author has created such convincingly flawed but wholesome characters, and a plot that is easily consumable. It’s a joy to read, though there are some heartbreaking moments. I know I read this book at least three times when I was young, and these women- and especially Jo, the fearless femme- will forever be some of my favorite and endearing characters of all time.
What Makes it a Classic?
As a timeless piece of writing about sisterhood and independent women, this book became a classic because of it’s ability to connect to readers. Alcott’s writing is reminiscent of Austen’s in that it creates study of a collection of characters within a community, with a mix of family drama. Additionally, Alcott has made the content of the novel accessible to all ages, allowing for a broad audience.
TL/DR: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a classic novel about four sisters, and their mother who encourages and raises them to be strong, independent women who look out for each other.
Read it? YESSS!!!
Recommend it? YES!! It’s one of my favorite classic reads that’s pretty safe for all reading ages.
Buy it? YES!
Watch the movie? Yes! There is a version of the movie with Winona Ryder, which I loved to watch as a teen, because I basically wanted to be Jo. Now, there’s a new movie coming out in theaters this year (2019) and I’m eager to see the new adaption!