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Book Notes: Little Women

I’m sure I’m not alone in having a long-standing relationship with Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. My first introduction to the March sisters was the 1933 film starring Katherine Hepburn as feisty Jo, a VHS borrowed from the library as many times as I was allowed. Then I was given a lovely hardcover illustrated edition that I read to pieces. After that I sought out all the other Louisa May Alcott books I could find, scouring the shelves of the library and the corners of used bookstores. I followed the continuing story of the March sisters through Little Men and Jo's Boys. And soon became as enamored with Alcott's many other charming family stories laced through with morality, like Eight Cousins, Jack and Jill, and A Garland for Girls.

Of course, I loved the 1994 Little Women film with Winona Ryder. When I went to college across the country, I left my hardcover Little Women behind and purchased a paperback to take with me, for comfort reading in the midst of all my coursework. While on the East Coast, I visited Orchard House in Concord, and wandered around the rooms, picturing Louisa and her sisters (and the fictional Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy) within its walls. I continued to look for more obscure Alcott titles any time I browsed a used bookstore. And in the years since, I kept turning to Little Women, for the coziness of family togetherness despite hardship, the dreams of the girls as they grow into women, the trials of domestic life, and the silver linings in the midst of adversity. I may have put the March family on a bit of a pedestal. 

They say a marker of growth can be reading a beloved book as you age and seeing how it changes with you. As the years keep going by, I've grown to see the complexities of Little Women, and of the life of Louisa May Alcott herself. Some of that is certainly due to novelists who took on Little Women, or the Alcott family, bringing a fresh viewpoint to the familiar story. Books like March by Geraldine Brooks, The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper, and So Many Beginnings: A Little Women Remix by Bethany C. Morrow. Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaption added to the mix, and now, over 30 years after my first encounter with Little Women, I love it still, but with a love that is more expansive and accepting of the humanity of the characters and the author. 

Island Books has a table filled with all things Louisa May Alcott in celebration of the Mercer Island High School Drama’s production of Little Women, adapted by Thomas Hischak. Check out this link for times and tickets!

— Lori