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Review: "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott

Little Women is available in our ebook catalog.

Little Women was first published in 1868 as two volumes and was an instant success. The novel concerns the lives and loves of four sisters growing up during the American Civil War. Beautiful Meg, tomboy Jo, serene Beth, and selfish Amy are based on Alcott's own experiences with her three sisters.

Little Women, originally Volume 1, portrays the vibrant March sisters navigating the hurdles of growing up poor but genteel young women. Each has character flaws she must recognize and overcome. Alcott shows them make mistakes, discover the reasons for their mistakes--usually with the help of their saintly "Marmee"--and learn to try harder.  Volume II starts with Meg's marriage and subsequently follows the young women, as they are now, into adulthood. The fact that Alcott carries her story past the romance and marriage of her characters diverges from what we've come to expect from stories about young women. The story, like real life, doesn't end when the marriage happens.

Today's reader might find some aspects of the novel moralistic--however Alcott is never preachy. She broaches subjects such as etiquette, feminine behavior, and the roles of the parent, spouse and child in a happy home. These moral teachings can be used by the reader or disregarded, but the completely genuine way Alcott presents her subject matter makes it easy to digest. If you are open to the advice she is giving, Little Women makes for a wonderful self-help book for women and men of all ages. I found myself taking Alcott's advice in the social interactions of my own home--trying harder to say and do nice things or finding reward in the happiness of others. While her plot and method of exposition may be slightly dated, the ideas Alcott is sending us with Little Women are timeless.


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