Reading Notes: “Little Women”

Happy Saturday, dear book bloggers.

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This isn’t the most flattering photo of me, but it will always be special. Jared and I took this selfie at the end of our 10-hour-long (!) first date Dec. 16, 2012. It was one of the happiest days of my life so far.

I’m in rather high spirits this morning. Yesterday marked four years since Jared’s and my first date. Due to some nasty weather, we weren’t able to celebrate with a return trip to the diner and movie theater where it all began, but hopefully we can recreate our first date, as we do every year, once the roads are more passable.

 

Inclement weather can be a blessing and a curse. My only obligation for today was postponed, so unless Jared and I decide to slip-slide our way to the store for our weekly groceries (and we probably should, as we don’t have much to eat unless I make something scarily creative) we will be hermits today. What could be better than a lazy Saturday?!

Yesterday felt like Saturday, as I left work earlier than usual. Imagine my confusion when I got up a few hours ago. Jared mentioned the event I was supposed to cover tonight (before I learned it was postponed) while I was thinking I’d need to head out to church early, since I’m on worship team this week.

I love church, but realizing that today is, in fact, Saturday made me so happy. That meant I could catch up on the December readalong of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” which Stephanie at Adventures of a Bibliophile is hosting. We had a brief book discussion via Twitter a few days ago, and although Stephanie and I were the only ones who joined in I still enjoyed it.

I have now finished the third segment of the readalong, pausing at the end of Chapter 28. I read “Little Women” in grade school, and as an adult I appreciate it so much more. For one thing, my reading comprehension skills as a kid were in sad shape. I keep saying I’m going to write a post about hyperlexia at some point, and someone needs to hold me to it!

My mom was the one who introduced me to Alcott’s books. I believe I was in third grade when Mom and I got into a habit of reading together before bed. We’d usually take turns reading a paragraph or two. My dad had started a new career as an over-the-road truck driver around that time, and we were trying to find a “new normal.” We were still living in an old farmhouse on a dead-end lane nine miles outside of town, so nights were a little spooky without my dad home. Sharing a book was a welcome distraction.

One of the books we read together was “Eight Cousins,” my first acquaintance with Alcott. I don’t remember much about that particular book, but I do know I wanted to read more of Alcott’s heartwarming stories.

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On the flyleaf is the price, $2, covered by a butterfly stamp showing that I paid. Under the title I wrote, in crooked cursive, “Property of: Miss Megan Hall Spees.” It is still a treasure to me, two decades later.

Eventually, we moved on to “Little Women,” and I enjoyed it so much I picked up my very own copy at a Scholastic Book Fair when I was in fourth grade. I think my classmates did a double-take when they saw me lay down the 562-page tome on my desk. I wasn’t the best student at that age, but I was and would forever remain a bookworm.

 

My thoughts thus far

Hats off to Stephanie for providing me with motivation to dive back into this wonderful classic. I don’t often re-read books, as there are so many of them and so little time. But “Little Women” is one of many books I read when I was young and didn’t fully grasp.

Around the time I first read this book, I was going through a tomboy phase. You know this book was a treasured possession if I wrote “Megan” on the flyleaf – during that period of my childhood I insisted everyone call me “Meg.” If you are at all familiar with the March girls,

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Late summer of 1995 … climbing “my” apple tree one more time before we moved from the country into town. I think everything I have on in this photo came from the boys’ clothing department.

you know that Jo is the rowdy sister who considers herself “the man of the family while papa is away” in the war and uses unladylike expressions such as “Christopher Columbus!” She also loves to read and write. So, of course, Jo was and still is my favorite “little woman.”

 

Alcott seems to impart a lesson in each chapter. These nuggets of wisdom usually are delivered by the girls’ mother, whom they affectionately call “Marmee.” These lessons usually remind the reader that the best things in life aren’t “things,” that one should forgive and not hold grudges, that character and integrity can be compromised by vanity, etc.

“Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well. Then youth will bring few regrets, and life will become a beautiful success.”

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“I’d rather see you poor men’s wives, if you were happy, beloved, contented, than queens on thrones, without self-respect and peace.”

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“It takes people a long time to learn the difference between talent and genius, especially ambitious young men and women.”

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Louisa May Alcott (courtesy of Wikipedia)

In fifth grade, we were assigned to give biographical reports. I chose Alcott as my subject. Imagine my delight when I learned that “Little Women” is semi-autobiographical, with the author casting herself as Jo. Because of my passion for the topic, I aced that report. I made a timeline of Alcott’s life on a poster board, and for the next decade or so it was rolled up in a corner of my closet (I think I hung it up in my room for a while after I first took it home from school … I was awfully proud of it). I fear I may have thrown it away … I know I can’t save everything, but how fun would it be to share a photo of it here?!

 
What many casual readers don’t realize about Alcott, and what I didn’t fully take into account when I did my bio report, is there was more to her career than stories for young people. Like Jo March, Alcott wrote some pretty dark and spooky stuff! As a freshman in high school, I bought a compilation of her short stories, “A Whisper in the Dark: Twelve Thrilling Tales.” It’s a rather thick volume, and after all these years I have yet to read to finish it.

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(courtesy of bustle.com)

After I’m finished re-reading “Little Women,” my plan is to re-watch the 1994 movie adaptation starring Winona Ryder (she is the embodiment of Jo March, in my opinion!), Susan Sarandon, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Christian Bale … my, what a cast. I have my own copy on DVD, so I could watch it right now if I wanted to.

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(courtesy of huffingtonpost.com)

I’d also like to get my hands on the 1949 film starring Mary Astor, Elizabeth Taylor, Janet Leigh, C. Aubrey Smith and others. I can’t help thinking my mom and I might have rented it years ago, but I’m not sure.

 

Have you read “Little Women” or seen either of the movie adaptations? What’s your favorite novel or story by Louisa May Alcott?

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Reading Notes: “Little Women”

  1. I love this post! I’m so glad you’re enjoying your reread. I think it’s interesting that the book is so personal to Alcott, and has so many great lessons, because she didn’t really want to write it. I definitely want to read more of her work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Little Women is my all-time favorite book. I have seen both movie adaptations, and I enjoy both of them, though, in the older one, I think that the “girls” were played by actresses who were too old for the roles. But that’s okay…I still enjoy it.

    My Grammy introduced me to the book when she bought it for me as a Christmas present…gosh, it’s been over 20 years ago now. So I always think of her when I read the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Now that you mention it, they do look a bit too old in the ’49 version. I think the ’94 one was very well cast…Kirstin Dunst was such a good Amy, for instance.

      That’s so neat that you have a good memory of your grandma attached the book. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • My favorite adaptation is certainly the ’94 one. Their casting was spot on. And I really fell in love with Mr. Bhaer in that version.

        Yes, I think so too. 🙂 I don’t read it very often, because it is so long, but usually I reread it because I’m missing her. She passed away a few years ago, so that makes my connection to the book that much deeper.

        Liked by 1 person

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