Classic Readalong Discussion: Little Women

December 19, 2014 2014, classics, giveaway, historical, readalong, Wendy 44

IMG_7934

It’s our very last classics discussion of the year! And what a long book it was, my GOODNESS. Thank you to everyone who read it with us–it’s been so fun chatting with everyone on Twitter, and we look forward to a lively discussion with you below as well!

IT’S ALSO RECKONING TIME. Below you’ll find directions on how you may prove you completed/participated in the challenge this year. We have two giveaways, plus a little thing for some additional participants.

 

divider vine cropped

 

Kim: Okay, due to my most inconveniently timed illness I was only able to make it halfway through this book. Terrible! But I have been long familiar with the story ever since I saw the 1994 film adaptation as a wee one. (Also my first ever introduction to Little Women was this anime I had as a kid. It it very dear to teeny tiny Kim’s heart )

Impressions then: Amy March is a terrible human being who does not deserve Laurie. Impressions now: Amy March is a terrible human being who does not deserve Laurie.

Layla: Ahaha! I’ve been waiting for this one, mostly so I can hold you both hostage to my feelings. As you may have gathered from Twitter, Little Women was one of my childhood favorites – my first-grade teacher gave me a copy of Little Men when I left her classroom, but I never liked it until it was framed by Little Women, which I loved a whole lot. I was actually surprised by how much of the language I remembered on this re-read.

Wendy: I love this book to pieces, but I hadn’t read it in years. I barely squeaked in at the end, but I enjoyed this reread immensely. These dear, dear girls!

Layla: That said, while I can’t not love Little Women, I felt a whole lot more judged by this book than I did as a ten year-old. I will read all of the pirate-orphan-rogue adventure tales I want to, Professor Bhaer! (There is another scene like this in Rose In Bloom – I think! – where Uncle Alec catches Rose reading scandalous French romances, I think, and gives her a talking-to about how they’re going to affect her moral development, which made me feel guilty about reading romances for years.)

Kim: Ew what? I haven’t gotten to the part where the Professor gets a lecturin’ but I do not like. There was a bit of moralizing in the first half that makes me just a teeensy bit eye roll-y with all the “good Christian virtue” but it is part of the charm of the book, I admit. Sad to think of Little Layla all discouraged for the romance reading :(

Wendy: I normally very much like old timey books written for children that are about striving to be good, as evidenced by some of our classics choices this year. I mean, I believe in that just as a general life rule. But this was too much even for my taste, I winced at a lot of passages.

Layla: It really is a present theme in this book. Moral formation through novel-reading! Which is … actually a thing I do believe in, though not in the same way that Alcott does. Did I get it from this book? Er, maybe. But I do feel pretty strongly about that, especially for YA fiction? Like, I want books to model good behaviors or good ways or being in the world, or at least foster useful discussions on these things.) In any case, it’s interesting that Jo’s scolded for thriller-writing (won’t somebody think of the children?) while Alcott herself wrote them.

Wendy: Professor Bhaer calls thrillers trash! Tsk, tsk. While I don’t think every YA/children’s book needs to offer shining examples of perfect behavior, particularly ones written now within the context of everything we’ve learned as from history and social/personal development, etc, I am very strongly drawn to books that feature a positive, joyous outlook on life. It’s very Pollyanna of me, I guess, but I agree–I think books that model good behavior are wonderful. But, this one goes overboard.

Kim: I do find the moralizing interesting. I actually thought that as admirable as it is to examine one’s faults and constantly strive to be better that there was maybe too much pressure to be good? Jo is ever so hard on herself when she’s already such a decent person! We all have flaws and can’t be perfect. I was just reminded of how when I was religious in high school and was constantly deriding myself on not being a perfectly good person and all that pressure to be an angel. It just made me anxious! You’re fine, Jo!!

puffin in bloom

Layla:  Relatedly: what is up with how much the book emphasizes writing from experience rather than imagination? Did that strike anyone else as interesting/odd?

Wendy: Is this an early instance of “write what you know?” I’ve always been confused about what characteristics are considered part of the romanticism movement in American literature. I’ve read conflicting statements about relying on personal experience vs. fanciful imagination.

Layla: Also, despite the weird moralizing about bad books, Louisa May Alcott must have had some radical politics for her time, right?

Wendy: Yes, I think so. I believe her father was actually a bit of a rebel, too–he got into trouble for teaching about sex, and he had a black female student 25 years before abolition, I believe.  So she’s got some of his spirit! Fun fact: he also invented recess. Hail to the Alcotts.

Layla: This is not to say that there are not several cringe-worthy passages in this book – where Meg tries to interest herself in politics and John takes an interest in hattery, for example –  as well as some serious gender essentialism going on. But like … marriage as a partnership? John helps with the parenting? Jo’s multiracial pupils?) i don’t know. Needs more research. Must use google-fu!

Can I also bring up the book’s surprising okay-ness with Catholicism as a thing? Like, no one responds poorly when that Frenchwoman teaches Amy about the rosary and tells her how to basically make a shrine to Mary in her closet. (As I was reading it, as a former Catholic schoolgirl, I was like, “I SEE WHERE THIS IS GOING.”) But then it’s totally fine!

Kim:  I also like how adorable and heartwarming the closeness of the family is and how touching it is that they cheer and buoy each other through various triumphs and failures. I want to gather this entirely family (MINUS AMY) into my arms and squish ‘em.

Wendy: No hugs for Amy. I am so fond of the sister love and family love–and the wintry Christmas things, with skates and sleigh rides! I do believe this was one of the first books I read that gave a little glimpse into feminine beauty regimens with curling tongs and such–it was all very mysterious and wonderful to young Wendy. And the clothes, though they weren’t wealthy, sounded beautiful! I’ll take a blue velvet snood and pearl pin, please.

“Dear me, let us be elegant or die.”

Layla:  And proof that a book is the greatest Christmas present of all!

Wendy: Let us not forget the “eatables and drinkables” including distracting French bonbons, blanc-mange, bowls of apples, a box of chocolate drops, fat turkeys, plum puddings, and promiscuous lunches. I need an explanation for “wine and beef tea,” however.

Layla:  No pickled limes, but I will take all your pink and white ice cream, thanks very much. Apparently beef tea is made from beef? I’m imagining it as some kind of broth. Maybe the wine is separate? And you get some wine and some broth. Very good for invalids. Man, there are some disturbing sentences “wine and beef tea” is on Google, though.

Wendy: I just enjoy all the charming details (post office in the hedge!), love of books and music, and cozy family feeling, as well as cordial friends and neighbors–do drop in on me with 3 kittens when I’m sick, won’t you? And the games they play! What is Authors and why do they not explain how we may play it?

Layla: According to Wikipedia! “The deck of cards consists of eleven sets of four cards each representing the works of eleven famous authors. The object of the game is to form complete sets of the four cards comprising the works of a particular author. The winner is the player with the most sets.”

Wendy: Someone needs to replicate this game.

Layla:  For me it was LMA’s commitment to the Pickwick Society. As a child, I used to skip that section. Don’t hate me forever! I thought it was boring and didn’t know who any of those old dudes were – and I still don’t, ‘cause I still haven’t read much Dickens. HOWEVER. Now I find that interlude totally charming and ugh, so fun! It captures the girls’ different voices so well! (And of course Amy hasn’t participated properly, she is the worst.) Like, I love the descriptions of their home theatricals now, too. So delightful.

Wendy: I confess I skipped it this time around. I was in a hurry, and though charming, it’s a bit too long for my taste.

“That boy is a perfect Cyclops, isn’t he?” said Amy, one day, as Laurie clattered by on horseback, with a flourish of his whip as he passed.

“How dare you say so, when he’s got both his eyes? And very handsome ones they are, too”; cried Jo, who resented any slighting remarks about her friend.

Wendy: I also forgot how funny this book is! I quite enjoyed the blatant allusion to sex–the “taking off” of the great coat following the quarrel, followed shortly thereafter by a small flannel bundle. Oh, MY.

Layla: Wait, is this John and Meg? SCANDALOUS. I like this about the babies: when Laurie “regards the infants with the air of a big, benevolent Newfoundland looking at a pair of infantile kittens.”

Wendy: The writing is so humorous–I love it. But now we have to talk about the thing that makes all of us furious.

little women puffin in bloomLayla:  Amy March is the worst. (I hear Kim would not fish her out of a lake.) For my part, I have no more affection for her than I did when I first read these books. Team Jo all the way! I just feel like Jo gets so *wronged* by Amy and Amy never really gets adequately punished. Her punishment is wearing a beautiful turquoise ring. To remind her of how no one would love her if she died. (And that kills me! Your punishment is wearing pretty jewelry! This seems HIGHLY suspect to me, sneaky Amy March! Someone hand me a diamond necklace so I can think about my sins, okay?)

Wendy: And she gets to go abroad. UGH. I don’t  think it helped matters that both times that darling Beth lies at death’s door, we’re forced to leave her bedside to listen to Amy’s endless prattling about her looks or being bored or whatever.

Kim:  I have negative interest in helping to fish Amy March out of a frozen lake is all I’m saying. I’ll just casually stand over there. She wasn’t listening in the first place!

Layla:  Among Amy’s offenses that I am still incandescently angry about: when she burns Jo’s novel; when she whines about having to go to school (school is the best; you are the worst); when she gets to travel to Europe in Jo’s place! (Speaking of which, how long is that goddamn trip? It’s supposed to be what … a few months? And turns into like THREE YEARS? And Amy gets it, because Jo was grouchy about making house calls that Amy forced her into. And Jo dealt with Aunt March FOR YEEEEEEEARS.) However:  I was really bothered by the description of Jo shaking her until her teeth chattered in her head, though, after Amy burns Jo’s precious book. Even though I felt like Jo’s anger was totally justified, that seemed kind of violent.

Kim:  UNACCEPTABLE. Burning Jo’s novel is such an egregious offense. And like you mention above she never is adequately punished for it while poor Jo ends up beating herself up for hesitating to help Amy not die. Well guess what? Amy destroyed her life’s work and is terrible. In my child mind Amy stole Laurie and that was the most unforgivable offense of all. No thank you, Amy March. Goodbye forever. I would add, though, that now I just have to give Laurie major side eye for even being remotely interested in her. What’s up with that.

Wendy: YES. I’ve always hated Amy and every re-read makes the feeling worse, but it’s the fact that Laurie marries her that drives me up the freaking wall. I can accept that Laurie and Jo maybe aren’t meant to be, but his being interested in that useless twit makes me raaaage. Adult Laurie is just so different from boyhood Laurie that it’s difficult to reconcile–and it doesn’t help that we have that fast forward of 3 years between Meg’s engagement to her wedding, so that you don’t see Laurie and Jo growing apart, it’s just presented as fact. So this dear, kind, thoughtful boy is all the sudden courting “fast” girls and so on, okay, fine, then he buckles down and tries to be a “decent” person– but to make the leap to someone as vacuous as Amy? I just don’t buy it. I think there’s a tremendous amount of truth in his disloyal thought that “Jo’s sister was almost the same as Jo herself.” It’s an insulting statement at face value, but I think it’s the desire to stay close to Jo, and still part of the family and all the comfort they’ve brought him, that makes Amy especially attractive to him. He’s obviously known many girls before her and is a catch.

Layla:  Yes, I was hoping someone would talk about this! I’d never noticed this on previous reads, but the way he thinks of Amy as an extension of Jo herself is super interesting. I also kind of question how much he actually loves Jo v. just wanting to be a part of the March family.

Wendy: I’m sure that played into it. But I’m not unconvinced that they could have loved each other and made a life together. Jo was just so uncooperative, hah.

laurie little women tweet

Layla: When he’s trying to write his great work in Europe, right, and is thinking of his heroine, he tries to think of Jo and make her into his ideal heroine – but he can’t. “But memory turned traitor, and as if possessed by the perverse spirit of the girl, would only recall Jo’s oddities, faults, and freaks.” The way I read Laurie’s love for Jo is, like, of a boy who’s grown up with very little love in his life and who desperately wants to be part of this incredibly warm, close family. He falls for Jo, but for me, he’s really falling for the idea of the Marches more than anything else.

Wendy: I think there’s a great deal of truth in that. My husband’s family is the complete opposite of mine, and it’s kind of nice for both of us to have different experiences.

But fuck Amy March forever. I know she supposedly grows up a bit later on, but it’s not really all that much. She is stupendously rewarded  for being vain and ornamentative and, supposedly, being not as terrible as she was as a child.

Layla:  I see no proof of this. You know nothing (about basic human decency), Amy March.

Wendy: I felt extra indignant because, like most readers, I completely related to Jo, partly because I was a tomboy with my nose stuck in books, and I had a fearful temper for the longest time. Well, I still have a temper, but I’ve learned to stay among the nettles until my feelings cooled as well.

Layla:  I also related to Jo, for, um … similar reasons. Like Jo, I’m a grumpy November baby (Scorpio shout-out). And am also pretty quick-tempered & easily agitated. This passage really hit home for me as a kid: “It seems as if I could do anything when I’m in a passion … I could hurt anyone and enjoy it.” Oh man did I feel that way as a child: incandescent rage! But also! ::scribbles fanfic about Jo going to Europe instead; spoiler alert, she participates in some French salons and becomes a lesbian; Beth escapes her untimely end by turning into a vampire and bites Amy to death:

Kim:  I WANT THIS TO BE REAL. I especially support Beth becoming a vampire because Beth is my favorite and I would also love to be a vampire. I have seriously thought through what I would do if any attractive vampires popped up and offered to take me away into the night.

Wendy: Beth breaks my heart, and there is so much foreshadowing with her that makes it harder to bear. But I like the idea of the angel turning into a vampire. And biting Amy to death.

Layla:  Yes, the bit about the little cricket chirping on the hearth and no one notices it until it’s gone … HINT HINT. The saddest part in the whole book for me: “It seems I should be homesick for you even in heaven.” I CRIED.

Wendy: I cried a LOT, especially at the Beth parts. And I also looked quite keenly for signs of queer subtext in Jo’s character this time around. She’s certainly described with a great many qualities that are regarded as traditionally masculine/tomboy, what with her  “gentlemanly linen collar,” her delight in reading “boy’s books,” wanting to marry girls, and so on.

Layla:  I loved this part: “It’s bad enough to be a girl, anyway, when I like boy’s games and work and manners! I can’t get over my disappointment in not being a boy.” And then, “He liked Jo, for her odd, blunt ways suited him, and she seemed to understand the boy almost as well as if she had been one herself.”  And there’s the way that Laurie’s affection for her is described as changing to “brotherly” after he sets his cap for Amy. I was spoiled for choice in quotes where I read Jo as queer, is all I’m saying.

Wendy: Apparently there’s quite a bit of speculation about that. The author has been quoted as saying she felt as if she had a boy’s spirit in a girl’s body, and has admired many girls.  I believe Jo was married off because the publisher wanted her to be. It’s fairly well known that Alcott wanted Jo to stay a spinster, as she herself was. You have to wonder what ending Alcott would have given her now.

Layla: Yeah, her response to Meg’s marriage is pretty strong. Okay, she has a few people she loves dearly and hates change – I get that, I do – but “I want to marry Meg so I can keep her in the family.” UM. SUPER QUEER.

Wendy: Oh, Jo. I’m so sad for your settling, in so many ways.

puffin in bloom anna rifle bond

Layla:  Shippy ships: I no longer ship Jo/Laurie! Man, did that relationship break my heart as a child! I found the proposal scene  – where he is all leaning and like, manfully shedding a solitary tear – so romantic. And now, I find it somewhat manipulative? That bit where he is like, ::coax coax:: made me want to jump into the book and grab his collar and haul him away. She said no, buddy!

I also don’t really ship Jo/Professor Bhaer, so there’s that, too. (I want Jo to be forever alone.)

Kim: I mean at least you don’t ship Jo and the Professor. There is that. Maybe I’m just too influenced by the 1994 movie? But I found Laurie so swoony and grown up Kim is like “F yeah he’s rich, handsome, of good character, and genuinely in love with you! I’d marry him!” So frustrating and heartbreaking. I pretty much dread actually having to read the second half of the book. And especially so for what’s coming with my dear, dear Beth who is drastically underrated! She is such a dear, sweet soul and I adore her utterly.

Wendy: This was the first time I’d ever read a book where the pair in my mind and BFFS didn’t end up together, and it scarred me for life. I’M STILL NOT OVER IT. I will never be over it. I can admit, as an adult, to a tiny crack in my intellect that leaves room for an understanding of why Laurie and Jo might not suit. But my heart wants to believe they could have made it. Lots of couples quarrel–and then they make up, gloriously. But hey, you cannot force love or sexual desire–Jo’s pretty clear the whole way through that she doesn’t feel anything other than friendly towards him. What a wretched romance.

 

divider vine cropped

Classics Readalong 2014: Giveaway!

Okay! How did everyone do on your challenges this year? We’re so very glad to see each and every one of you each month. Shiny new releases are wonderful, but it’s important not to forget to explore the books that have stood the test of time as well.

So here are the rules for the 2014 challenge:

1. You must have read/reviewed at least 8 classic YA or MG books on your blog or GoodReads during the 2014 calendar year. What defines a classic? Well, we’re generally looking at books at least 20 years old, along with other factors such as lasting appeal, awards, critical reception, etc. They can be the 11 classics we read together at The Midnight Garden, or ones you chose on your own. We reserve the right to make the final call on whether the books qualify, though if it’s a “classic of your heart” situation, make a good case for it in your review!

2. You must have posted our classics challenge button on your sidebar and/or your reviews along with a link back to us.

3. Leave links to all of your reviews in one comment below. (It helps if you can write the title followed by the link, hit return, and then list another so the lists are nice and tidy.) We will absolutely, positively verify your entries, so please do make sure your links are properly formatted!

4. Leave an email address where we may contact you. You have until January 1st, 2015 to leave all your information, so you still have a little bit of time if you’re almost there.

If you’ve completed all of the above–congratulations! You’ve met your challenge goal–yay!!

puffin in bloom heidi

 

puffin in bloom anne of green gables

 

puffin in bloom heidi

From all the qualifying people who completed the challenge, we will choose winners as follows:

— One US winner, who will receive all four of these gorgeous Puffin in Bloom classics editions illustrated by Anna Rifle Bond. Aren’t they beautiful? We posted these photos on our Tumblr a few months ago and it’s our most popular post! It’s also fun that the set includes two of the books we’ve read this year, and you miiight see one of the others in the coming months, too. This set is graciously provided by our friends at Penguin Books for Young Readers.

— One international winner, who will receive his/her choice of one of these four books. We’ll buy and send it directly to the recipient, and the giveaway is open to any country where The Book Depository ships.

I hope everyone who joined in, whether you completed the challenge or not, enjoyed the experience of discussing these classics! AND if you participated in at least one of the discussions here at TMG by thoughtfully commenting on one of the classics posts, I will send the first 30 qualifying respondents one of our pretty Midnight Garden bookmarks. These are highly coveted by readers near and far, and this is the first time we’ve offered them up publicly in this way. Just leave your email below along with links to your specific comment in at least one discussion you participated in, and I’ll be in touch for your address. And yes, this is open internationally.

Our usual general giveaway rules apply–you must be 18 and older to participate, or 13 and older with parental permission, etc., etc.

Photographs are by Wendy Darling. Review and giveaway copies were provided by Penguin Books for Young Readers.

 

divider vine cropped

January Readalong: Tuck Everlasting

tuck everlastingReady for some magical realism? And tears? We’ll be reading Tuck Everlasting as part of its 40th anniversary celebration! This was a bit of a shocker to read as a kid, so I’m curious to see how we’ll all feel about it reading as adults.

Title: Tuck Everlasting
Author: Natalie Babbitt
Discussion Date: Friday, January 30th
Hashtag: #tmgreadalong

Doomed to—or blessed with—eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortably as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing that it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.

This title should be easily available in libraries, and it’s also between $5 and $6 on Amazon depending on the format.

— If you’d like to get a head start on February’s book, we’ll be reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh.

 

divider vine cropped

So what were your thoughts on Little Women? Did Jo make the right choice? Are you as angry with Amy March as we are? (Sorry, Amy Garvey. We told you your choice was controversial.)

Be sure to leave links to the reviews you’ve completed so you may qualify for the giveaways as well!

 

Wendy signature teal

 

 

 

 

44 Responses to “Classic Readalong Discussion: Little Women”

  1. E

    Really disappointed with myself that I didn’t keep up with the MG Classics. I really enjoyed the ones I read (Harriet the Spy, The Westing Game, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Anne of Green Gables and The Luckiest Girl) but I didn’t read enough to qualify for the prize. I joined in the discussions and everything! I feel like I’ve let myself down.

    I LOVE Little Women; it will always have a special place in my heart. A friend and I did a passage from Little Women for an acting exam ( I got to play Jo!) and it remains such a dear memory to me.

    I’d love a bookmark too! But I guess I’m far too late – and didn’t read 8, although I posted the badge to my blog. The latter part of this year has been very difficult for me; upheavals and changes abound. I haven’t written in my blog for months unfortunately.

    Are you continuing the MG classics theme for next year? I’ll try and take part again, and hope to win myself a bookmark at least! I love this blog so much and I have really let myself down.

    Happy New Year Midnight Garden!

    E xx
    E recently posted…The Midnight Garden: MG Discussion

      • E

        aaaaand, my email – I’m not good at this, am I? I leave it in the email bit above – that’s good enough, isn’t it?
        E recently posted…growing

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, E–that’s okay! We had a lot of very gung-ho readers in the beginning, but sometimes time just gets away from us. There’s always 2015, though! Fresh start and all that, as we are definitely continuing the challenge. I’m sorry to hear you had some downs, and I totally hear you on the blog downtime as well.

      But in any case, yes I’d be happy to send you a bookmark! I don’t see your email address listed, but feel free to email me your name and address directly to wendydarling (at) themidnightgarden (dot) net.

      Thank you SO much for your kind words–we enjoy doing this very much, and we’ve enjoyed talking to you. I’m glad you’ve come back to us! Cheers to the new year, with hopefully more reading time for all. <3

  2. Thomas

    You guys have such intriguing takes on this book! I read it for my American Lit class this past semester, and I must say I disagree with some of your opinions. First, I enjoyed that Jo did not marry Laurie – in a way, I interpreted it as Alcott saying to all her readers “hey, guess what, some women choose NOT to marry their best friends.” If you read the passage where Laurie confronts Jo about her decision, he almost assumes that she would marry him, using a lot of language that espouses normative gender roles. In a way, Jo’s decision to not marry Laurie proves her independence, because she then decides to go off to New York and get her own job. Her marriage with Mr. Bhaer, while not 100% cast in a feminist light (understandable considering the book’s time period), portrays her autonomy as well, as Jo starts her own school for boys.

    Also, I appreciated Amy a lot in this book. I feel like Beth and Meg acted as the exemplars of how females should behave within this society’s standards, whereas Jo and Amy both eschewed those roles. I think it is important to note that Jo and Amy both CHOOSE (I would italicize instead of obnoxiously using all caps if I knew how to, sorry) their paths. Jo chooses not to marry Laurie, and Amy chooses to become an “ornament of society,” as she puts it during her travel abroad. If anything, Alcott includes both of their characters to act as examples of women speaking up and standing up for themselves, even if Jo and Amy take their autonomy in completely different directions. Meg ascribes to marriage without a fight, and Beth succumbs to illness in a heartbreaking but unessential way. Amy, however, displays an awareness of her place within society and she uses that to her advantage, whereas Jo decides not to obey society’s standards and does her own thing – so both Amy and Jo deserve lauds.

    Anyway, I could write a whole essay about the sisters’ and how they either defy or do not defy gender roles/societal expectations (well, I actually did write two essays about it for my class) but just wanted to throw in my not-so-eloquent two cents to diversify the conversation. Team Amy all the way! And great post, everyone.
    Thomas recently posted…Thomas’s Ten Top 2014 Reads

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh Thomas, your response is totally the response of someone who is reading it for an essay or for a class, hah. I understand perfectly well the reasoning behind what Louisa May Alcott chose to do with Jo’s character–I understand it with my head, but I can’t with my heart. (The heart, you know, cannot be reasoned with. It wants what it wants.) I would have been much happier if Jo had chosen to remain single, or if Alcott had done a more persuasive job of proving that Professor Bhaer was a good match for her. Or if I were more convinced Laurie didn’t just fall right into Amy’s lap, as all good things inevitably seem to for her.

      Jo March is certainly a very good example of feminine independence and free will, I certainly don’t disagree with that. But I’m afraid you will never convince me that Amy is anything other than a useless, ornamental twit, no matter how passionately you might argue. But don’t worry, even Louisa May couldn’t do that for me. ;)

  3. J. Oh

    I love Little Women, and I have to admit that I’m kind of a fan of the moralizing as long as it doesn’t get too heavy, which it sometimes does. But I feel like it’s a bit more common for older books, so it didn’t strike me as hard with this one.

    But I totally agree with the Jo and Laurie disappointment; it was my first shocker, too. I don’t think I was as shocked that Jo and Laurie didn’t end up together (I wanted them to, but I could, in small ways, understand) as I was that Jo and Dr. Bhaer did. He came out of nowhere and I thought he was totally old, and just overall, I was flabbergasted. It’s still one of my least favorite things about this book. Beth was my favorite, but this was one of the books that started the unfortunate trend of my favorite characters dying. (Not as true now that I read more contemporary books.)

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh, absolutely–the moralizing chafed at me a bit (and you’re right, it’s more common in older books), but it didn’t severely detract from my enjoyment.

      I wonder how many of us experienced our first book trauma at the hands of LITTLE WOMEN, hah. Dr. Bhaer DID come out of nowhere–we spend hundreds and hundreds of pages happily thinking of Jo and Laurie as possible endgame, and then suddenly it’s a few years later, she’s refusing Laurie, and immediately this older gent comes onto the scene and with very little interaction takes our girl away. WHAT WHAT WHAT.

      And Beth. :( Oh, darling Beth. No matter how many character deaths I’ve read since then, hers is still one of the most hurtful. She’s such an angel.

      I’m happy you love this too, though. It was so lovely to revisit the book.

  4. Lisa (Fic Talk)

    “But fuck Amy March forever” *cackles loudly*

    I… read this book a long time ago. I was very young and just thinking about my ship not sailing is still a major heartbreak. Although it isn’t until someone brings up the story that I remember it. Otherwise I like to blank it out of my mind.

    Blanc-mange!Oh my goodness. I haven’t had that in years. Just the mention of it makes me want it right now. Ugh.

    These new covers are so lovely. I especially want to get the Anne copy. It is so so pretty. Puffin has some of the best covers and to be honest I’m glad that most of the editions we get here are from them. A couple months back I purchased the new Charlie and The Chocolate Factory that contains a golden ticket. The colours are so vibrant and the shiny ticket is a huge plus.

    Thoroughly enjoyed this discussion, ladies!

    • Wendy Darling

      The covers are SO pretty, aren’t they? Penguin constantly issues new editions with gorgeous new artwork I salivate over, it’s very bad for the pocketbook. I don’t think I saw the Charlie with the golden ticket, though, I’ll have to look that up! And I’m beaming at you for saying CHARLIE like a good book lover, vs all the people who refer to it as WILLIE because of the movies. Hmph.

      And yes. Amy March can go fall in a freezing lake.

  5. Danielle Binks

    “Adult Laurie is just so different from boyhood Laurie that it’s difficult to reconcile…”

    Yeah, I do love how this is a point of contention for anyone who reads the book – it’s often a uniting front amongst readers (that Amy sucks and LAURIE, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!)

    I don’t think that Jo and Laurie were necessarily right for one another, nor do I think the Professor was right for her either. I wish Alcott had been allowed to stick to her guns and write Jo as the “literary spinster” she envisioned :)

    You do bring up an interesting point about those missing 3 years in which Jo and Laurie grow apart and Laurie changes so much … has anyone ever written a book from Laurie’s POV, filling in that gap and maybe explaining the “allure” of Amy (apart from the obvious, vacuous stuff?)

    Great readalong everyone!
    Danielle Binks recently posted…Most Anticipated Books of 2015

    • Layla A

      So, I don’t ship Jo / Laurie (as is probably super clear, I also want Jo to be a literary spinster! Or a literary lesbian. Whatever), but I do think that Marmee’s reasons for dissuading Jo from Laurie are … kind of crap and not necessarily indicative of like, a relationship that is doomed for failure. (i.e., They’re both really strong-willed and like to fight! They’re both stubborn! <– not always things that mean a relationship is doomed, especially b/c from what we see of Jo and Laurie's friendship, they mostly challenge each other. This could make for quite a good relationship, Marmee, ok?)

      I kind of dislike the Professor. I feel like Doge when I think about him: much paternalistic wow many judgment such oldness. So there. Ugh!

      I bet there's fanfiction online to answer that eternal question, "Why the eff does Laurie fall in love with Amy, or: The Missing Three Years."

      Does anyone like Amy March? Anyone? Anyone?
      Layla A recently posted…Arabian Jazz

  6. Carina Olsen

    That is a very huge book o.O lol. <3 I love your discussion girls. You guys are all so so amazing :) I'm not sure if this would be a book for me, but it do seem all kinds of awesome. <3 And I'm so glad you all enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing all these amazing discussion posts :) I love reading them all. <3
    Carina Olsen recently posted…This Shattered World Blog Tour: Quote Stop + Giveaway

    • Layla A

      It is a long book, but I think it’s actually kind of a quick read. Lots of story, Alcott is a really engaging writer, and ugh, I care so much about these characters! It’s an easy book to fall into and an easy book to develop Strong Feelings about (as you might have been able to tell from the heated discussion about whether or not Amy March is the worst. Spoiler alert, she is. She’s just the worst.)

      If you do give it a try, I hope you like it. <3! And hopefully you'll find some new books to love with the challenge in 2015!
      Layla A recently posted…Arabian Jazz

      • Carina Olsen

        I’m not sure I could handle reading about a character that is so bad, lol :D I want happy endings and such, hah. But so so glad you adore this book and characters. <3 I will be paying attention to what books you guys are reading next year, and hopefully I might be able to join a few of them :D
        Carina Olsen recently posted…Cress Tuesday #61

  7. Pili

    I’m now back with all the links to be added for the giveaway, since I finally completed the challenge over the weekend! I’m quite proud of having completed it even if I joined late on this one!

    A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/05/saturday-pages-wrinkle-in-time-by.html

    The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/06/saturday-pages-westing-game-by-ellen.html

    All of a Kind Family:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/07/friday-reads-all-of-kind-family-by.html

    Harriet The Spy:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/09/saturday-pages-harriet-spy-by-louise.html

    Animorphs by Katherine Applegate:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/11/saturday-pages-animorphs-by-katherine.html

    Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/11/friday-reads-farmer-boy-by-laura.html

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/12/saturday-pages-little-women-by-louisa.html

    The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary:
    http://pili-inlovewithhandmade.blogspot.com.es/2014/12/mark-this-book-monday-luckiest-girl-by.html

    And I’ve commented on all the discussions for these books, and as per my usual standards I’ve been overly verbose in them all! ;)

    The button is in my sidebar, ready to continue the challenge next year! Thank you so much for opening the contest internationally too ladies! ;)

    arianrhod80 at hotmail dot com.
    Pili recently posted…Mark This Book Monday: The Luckiest Girl by Beverly Cleary!!

  8. Brandi

    Enjoyed reading this discussion! I just read this over my beach trip and loved it. I’m also a big fan of the 1994 film and I guess I’m one of the few Jo/Friedrich folks, haha. Looking forward to Tuck Everlasting, read it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it.

    • Wendy Darling

      Aw, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed the book. I really have to watch the 1994 film–I confess Katherine Hepburn is the Jo of my heart, and I have a liking problem with Winona Ryder (in that I…don’t, really–shhh!), but so many people have told me they like this version that I really have to try it sometime.

      You must tell us about this shipping of Jo/Professor Bhaer, though. I can see it working on an intellectual interest level, but I didn’t feel it in my heart…or Jo’s. Did I miss something vital? I do admit, the scene when she’s going home and he’s inquiring whether she will see Laurie and he gets so very sad and resigned afterwards did tug at my heart a little.

      I’m so glad you’ll be joining us for TUCK, too! There’s so much room for discussion with that book.

      • Brandi

        Hmmm, I guess it’s because Bhaer and Jo always talked intellectually, and I would personally want someone like him (maybe not age wise & he does seem paternal at times). I think whenever he’s like, “Oh, Jo, don’t write thrillers, you’re better than that” it’s maybe a cultural/age difference between them. I adore Laurie though. I can see why others would rather him be with Jo. For me, though, I think the stubbornness and challenging nature between Jo and Laurie just wouldn’t work. I think in the ’94 film, Jo says something like “We’d kill each other!”…and I laugh b/c she’s probably right, haha. Also, the film makes Amy a little more sympathetic. She always annoyed me too but I like her in the movie.

        (And Tuck…..gah, that ending. Ripe for the picking, lol.)

  9. Melliane

    Oh what a great chat! I love this post. You know when I saw the title I was wondering if I knew the book because well the name didn’t ring a bell but ok in French it’s so different. It’s translated like the 4 daughters of the Dr. March. Yeah different. I think I’ve read it when I was little but even if I remember bits of it I don’t remember all.
    Melliane recently posted…Midnight’s Eve Giveaway Hop – (concours)

    • Wendy Darling

      MELLIANE. Hiii! How are you? I’m sorry I haven’t been by in so long, I’m barely here myself, which is a terrible, terrible thing. I hope you’re doing well!

      And ah hah, how funny to hear the title in French! It’s always so interesting to hear how things are translated, and I’m always curious about how broadly available/familiar some of our classics are too, particularly ones written for younger audiences. Anyway, how pleasant to find you know the story! I hope you’ll have a chance to revisit it someday. It really is quite charming, despite our quibbles with certain aspects of it.

  10. Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    I FEEL THIS ENTIRE DISCUSSION. SO. MUCH.

    Ugh, Amy March deserves not only to have drowned in that frozen pond but to have continued to have burned in hell. I’ve hated Amy March with a passion for YEARS and I probably will continue to do so until the day I die. Also, how can we possibly forget the entire episode with the lemons? Gosh, what a spoiled brat! She needed lemons to be popular in school? Screw YOU, Amy March!

    But Jo and Laurie breaks my heart. I haven’t read Little Women in years and it saddens me to realize that if I were to re-read it now, I’d probably be angriest with Laurie for pursuing Jo when she clearly said “No,” and, what’s more, for choosing to marry Amy. I completely agree that Laurie was in love with the idea of the March family more than Jo BUT I stubbornly believe that they would have been the happiest couple on Earth if only they’d have given it a chance. There’s a scene where Marmee tells Jo that she and Laurie wouldn’t have made each other happy and it’s the only moment where I’ve hated Marmee so, so much. But for Amy to get perfect, beautiful Laurie by the end? And for Jo to end up with that boring old professor? Ugh, I’ve hated the second-half of the book and film for those two reasons alone. (Let’s not forget that Amy was supposed to marry Frank or someone and then basically STEALS Laurie! Amy is the type of sister who made me thank God I had a brother instead.)

    Anyway, LOVED this discussion and I definitely didn’t pick up on the queer qualities Jo possessed. Will have to look into those if I ever re-read this. (Not sure my heart can deal with the Jo/Laurie heartbreak yet again, though. It scarred me SO BAD.) Lovely post, ladies, and I thoroughly enjoyed this!(:
    Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings recently posted…ARC Review: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

    • Wendy Darling

      I like to imagine Amy dripping with icicles from all the water that’s frozen in her hair and shivering until her teeth chatter. What a thoroughly useless human being! If you took her out of the family, who would miss her? NO ONE, THAT’S WHO. I will hate her until the day I die.

      I’d like to give her a lemon. And she’s the type of girl that most of us can count ourselves lucky if we don’t have to associate with.

      Yeah, as an adult woman, you really do look upon the Laurie pursuit with different eyes–but I do blame Alcott for this as well. I am WILLING to be persuaded that things might have turned out differently than young Wendy wanted in her romantic heart, but the years and years of upset have to do with the author not adequately preparing us for these events. And Amy getting Laurie, ugh. And Jo, stuck with a man who might be kind, but who thinks so little of her work? I’m all for people pushing us to be better, but the preachiness of it was too much.

  11. Whitney

    I actually received a set of Author cards from my sister the same year she bought me Little Women. I can only assume she’d sneaked some peeks into the copy she bought for me and went to track down the game. Anyway, circa 1994 this was still a thing!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh MY, someone made Author cards? I have to google this to see if I can find a set! What an awesome sister, and such a nice thing to do. It must have been such a fantastic surprise if you’re a fan of the book.

  12. Brenda

    This is a first time read for me, but I loved the movie, so was happy it was selected. Actually, I’m still reading it so no review for me yet. Once again this seems to hit well with the season. I’m so enjoying reading about how the girls at first think of all the things that they want to buy with their dollar, and then after seeing their mother’s shoes, decide to spend the money on her. And the whole piece on bringing their Christmas breakfast to a neighbors, ahh so sweet. I’m hoping to finish it up in a day or two, I unfortunately got a late start. I was warned about the length, but I really wanted to read it, so I’m going to push through the Amy parts.

  13. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review

    Thank you for all the wonderful readalongs this year! I looked forward to your discussion every month. This month I actually read the selected book too. :) My post is linked below.

    I commented on many of the posts, most recently on Farmer Boy.

    And here are all the posts I wrote for the challenge:

    A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/04/harriets-sister-long-way-from-verona.html

    Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/05/enchantress-from-stars-armchair-bea-day.html

    Smith by Leon Garfield:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/06/out-of-gutter-smith.html

    Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by E.L. Konigsburg:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/06/the-magic-of-friendship-jennifer-hecate.html

    All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/07/five-of-kind-all-of-kind-family.html

    A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/08/second-chances-solitary-blue.html

    Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/09/my-first-diana-wynne-jones-charmed-life.html

    Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/11/witch-week-day-six-readalong-of-witch.html

    I Saw Three Ships by Elizabeth Goudge:
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/12/a-christmas-gift-i-saw-three-ships.html

    Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
    http://www.emeraldcitybookreview.com/2014/12/the-immortality-of-love-little-women.html

    I’m glad you’re continuing the challenge in 2015! So many great books to rediscover out there. Enjoy.
    Lory @ Emerald City Book Review recently posted…The Immortality of Love: Little Women

    • Wendy Darling

      Thanks for joining the challenge, Lory! I’m glad you were able to read a few of the books we chose, too. And yes, I almost put out a poll, but you know, we enjoy doing this so much that we wanted to continue the readalongs next year regardless. If we can help get even one or two people interested in picking up a book they might otherwise not have noticed, we consider it a success.

  14. Amanda

    Little Women has always been one of my favorites. I am still mad at Jo, to be honest. Ugh. Amy.

    I don’t qualify for the giveaway since I don’t usually comment but those covers are GORGEOUS. I am going to put them on my wishlist.

    • Wendy Darling

      I’m still a little mad at Jo, too. But mostly I’m mad at Amy, hah.

      These Puffin editions are so, so beautiful–and to be honest, although I like all of Anna Rifle Bond’s illustrations, I didn’t think I’d want this LW one since I already have a few editions, and they are a little bit more on the child-like side than the books are. But they are so pretty that I instantly fell in love when I saw them in person! I feel silly for ever doubting I needed one. ;)

      Well, giveaway or not, I hope you will feel free to talk to us more in the future, Amanda! It’s lovely to find people who enjoy classics as much as we do. Thanks for stopping by today.

  15. Pili

    Oh dear! I had a hard time finishing the book this time, but I’m not gonna blame the book much, it was mostly my own personal feelings after having a death in the family and the book hangover after reading Golden Son… But I finished it last night and I found a new love for the book even if I raged as much if not more than when I first read it about the excesively pious/be a good girl kind of bits and at the judging of a woman reading and I just cannot help but continue to dislike the Professor.

    Amy March… I hate her guts. I hated her the first time I read the book, when I watched two of the movies and again when I read it this time… I just don’t like her. She’s an absolute selfish brat and it boggles my mind how she can be like that being raised in the same household than the other sisters! The only way I can understand that is seeing it as a satire of how society rewards the “proper use of feminine wiles” and not the honest attitude of those who defy society conventions like Jo. It’s almost like you can be a horrible person but if you don’t try to step out of the little square that society thinks it’s okay, you still get what you want.

    Jo, I always loved Jo. I loved that she didn’t hide her love for books and had no fear to be herself and always felt so bad for her doubts about her being a good person. She was different from what was considered appropriate and that shows very well on the books, how hard it can be being different and trying to be yourself in a society where who you are is frowned upon. I think I agree with Layla thinking about it… Jo does show some queer characteristics for sure, maybe as a lesbian or maybe even a trans person, she felt like she wanted to be born a boy… and that can be taken because she either really felt like one, or on the other hand my previous opinion was that she wanted the freedoms that men had in that time and that she was denied as a woman.

    Re-reading the book has made me be a lil less heartbroken over Laurie and Jo not working out… but I’m still enraged at Jo ending up with the Professor and Laurie with Amy!! And I am beyond broken once again about my dear poor Beth… she was the sweetest and despite all the love, I feel she was underappreciated!! Damn, I was so emotional this week and reading about Beth’s death made me weep badly!

    I’m gonna be adding all my links for classics’ reviews in another comment once I have the review for this one up tomorrow and might wait for next week since I plan to read The Luckiest Girl too! ;)

    YAY for Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIHM! This one I will be re-reading and must get myself a lovely edition in English since this one I read in Spanish it was from the library.
    Pili recently posted…Friday Reads: ARC Review of Golden Son by Pierce Brown!!!

    • Wendy Darling

      Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear you had a death in the family, Pili–that’s just awful, especially around the holidays. I hope you are taking care of yourself.

      I understand disliking the Professor. He seems like a very kind man, but he’s really not very interesting and the moralizing and judging of Jo’s writing (however mildly said) is so annoying, especially from where we sit almost 200 years after the book was written. He’s not very well fleshed out, either–I think Alcott could have maybe convinced me that Jo wasn’t meant to be with Laurie, and that the Professor’s completely opposite nature would be good for Jo and vice versa, but we weren’t shown that at all. I don’t think the second half of the book was nearly as well paced or developed the characters nearly as well as the first half did. I’m pretty interested in seeing what happens in LITTLE MEN and EIGHT COUSINS–Layla and my friend Kate from Whatchyareading.net talk about those books a lot separately, and now I’m very curious to see what becomes of everyone. Though I’m also fearful of not having enough Jo!

      GRRR AMY. That’s so interesting to question whether she’s meant to be satirical commentary on society, I never thought of that. I’ve heard the girls were loosely based on LMA’s own sisters, and I have to say, I think all of us girls have either had sisters like this or known girls like this, who skate through life on charm and helpless “Dear me!!” attitudes and somehow everything just falls into their laps, hah. I would have been fine with seeing her find success and happiness BUT SHE DOES NOT DESERVE LAURIE. Or if the author meant for us to truly feel that, she should have spent the time and care to convince us of this better.

      We seem to be ferreting out a lot of queer subtext in classics this year, don’t we? It’s so interesting to revisit these books I haven’t read for so long and look at certain aspects of them with new eyes. Part of the beauty of these discussions!

      Beth, dear, sweet Beth. We’ve all known Beths, too, and I hope they know as much happiness and appreciation as this one did.

      And yay! I’m so very glad you joined the challenge and have discussed so many of these books with us, Pili. You’re always one of our favorite people to converse with! I’m sorry we haven’t been by in so long, it’s just been crazy here, but I promise I’ll be by soon, hopefully right after the holidays.

      FRISBY. <3 I am very excited.

    • Wendy Darling

      Welll…it’s not outright fire and brimstone judgey, it’s just very, very earnest about what the characters consider to be right and wrong. And that sort of chafes when you’re reading it from a modern perspective, particularly in regards to equality for women as far as marriage and politics and social standing are concerned. It’s a very sweet, friendly book, though! I hope you give it a try sometime.

  1. The Secret Garden

    […] bad accident so that she might regain her physical and mental health. Oh, and Jo takes Beth away in Little Women for this reason as well! It seems to me that I’ve also read/seen so many stories set during […]

  2. the midnight garden: favorite books of 2014

    […] the bright side, in 2014, I revisited a lot of older classics that I love (re-reading Little Women was one of the most fun readerly experiences I had this year) and was introduced to a few new […]