By Louisa May Alcott
Published by Signet Classic, 2004 ISBN: 0451529308
Eighteen years have passed since I first read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. The first time around, I read the book at my parents' kitchen table in the predawn hours when the only other person awake in the house was my father, sitting at the other end of the table drinking coffee. My excited voice would break the morning silence announcing what Jo said or what happened to Amy in Europe. I spent many hours at the table reading, but this is the only book that I distinctly remember reading on those early mornings.
I wanted to be Jo. I wanted to be sure of who I was. I wanted to enjoy being different. I wanted to be a writer. Reading this book at 28, I am reasonably sure that I know who I am and I know I enjoy being different. I am a writer. And Jo March is still my role model, my childhood hero.
Now that I'm older, I definitely understand Jo much better. My ten year old heart grieved over the injustice of Amy marrying Laurie. How could Amy do that? I thought her a spoiled brat who always got everything. How could Laurie fall in love with little Amy after loving Jo for so long? And why wasn't Jo mad as hell about it? At 28, I understood why Amy and Laurie fell in love and why Jo wasn't mad as hell about it. I even felt happy about Amy and Laurie's solid, beautiful relationship, even if I felt a twinge of guilt for betraying my childhood emotions concerning their union.
At ten, I found Meg rather boring. She wanted to get married, set up housekeeping, and have a house full of babies. Why would she want to settle down when she could go off and explore the world? Why would anyone want to get married anyway? At least that's what the ten year old version of me felt. At 28, I understand Meg's desire to marry, settle down, and have a family. I have a feeling that if I read this book in five or ten years when I am married and have a young family of my own that Meg will probably my favorite character.
And then there is Beth. When I read this book as a child, I loved Beth, but I think it was more of a young and piteous love rather than a love based on her beautiful heart and soul. This time around, I cried when Jo took Beth to the beach. I cried harder when Jo brought Beth home and their parents realized that Beth was dying. I sobbed when Beth finally passed. I cried again when Amy returned home from Europe to a home and a world without Beth.
That's the beauty of a classic novel like Alcott's Little Women. It can be read over and over again, at different stages in life, and the reader can get something new out of the story, a new insight, a better understanding of a character or situation, like I did with Amy and Laurie getting married. Even though the book is set during the American Civil War, the themes and story lines are still familiar to us today. This novel withstands the test of time and it is one book that I'm sure to read over and over again.