Monday, January 10, 2011

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women tells of a family of girls during and after the Civil War of the United States. Stories jump from one girl to the next in random order. These stories involve the girls in their coming-of-age phases of life at home, their prospective careers, love interests, marriage arrangements, and even death. The language is quite formal and proper. This edition from Barnes & Noble Classics includes an introduction and notes by Camille Cauti. Her work helps in deciphering antiquated jargon and interspersed phrases the characters say in other languages. She also highlights discrepancies that readers may not think about while reading the book, like how the March family struggles through a financial downturn even though they still have a housekeeper and a sizable estate.
I normally do not choose this kind of literature for my reading enjoyment. I received this book as a free gift for downloading and installing the PC version of Barnes & Noble’s Nook. I do like the Nook for PC software program. It lets me not only read an electronic version of the text, but it also allows me to highlight passages and make notes on certain words or sections, like I do when I have a paperback book in my hands. What is truly neat is the fact that I can jot down longer notes whereas I run out of space in the margins in a physical book. I can even change the font size, very nice when I do not want to squint. I read the electronic books on my computer notebook on my lap while I sit in a recliner. If there is a word I do not understand, or think there may be a significant nuance to a word I think I understand, I can quickly look up the meaning of the word using Google and the Internet. When I find the appropriate definition, I highlight the word in Nook for PC, add a note, and, in the dialog box that opens, I copy and paste the definition and the URL address into the field so I can document where the references come from.
My impressions of this book varied. This work took me months to finish. The writing did not impede me, the topic did. The story contained too much estrogen for me. The saccharine focus of the daughters almost made me want to set the book down. The moral lessons felt preachy at times and some of the embarrassments the daughters went through while learning those lessons seemed aggrandized. The book was just tedious for me.
That is not to say there are not any good parts that I like. The narrator portrays itself like an angel chronicling the good deeds of the March family. I suspect the narrator may also be Jo as a mature writer (a suspicion partially confirmed by the 1994 cinematic version of the same name). Jo receives rewards for her hard work in writing stories. There are struggles they have to endure also, and they do it with grace. One chapter that even I find touching is “Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful” where Beth's aberrant affection shows appreciation for James Lawrence's gifting a piano to her, and softening his crusty personality in the process.
Little Women is appropriate for the general readership. A female-oriented audience can gain appreciation and worth from this book. I do not see myself reading this again unless a future daughter wants me to help her with a homework assignment relating to the story.

1 comment:

  1. The original title for this book review was "Does Little Women Make Me Look Like a Sissy?" I changed the title to make it conform with the other titles of posts I make to this blog.


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