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Reading Buddies Discussion: “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

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Welcome to the Reading Buddies discussion for Little Women by Louisa May Alcott! If you’re interested, check out the Goodreads discussion thread for the book. I’ll be away a lot this month but will try to check in now and then! Also please be sure to vote for the book you’d like to read in October using the poll over in the sidebar.

There may be spoilers here, so if you haven’t read this particular classic, you might want to be careful.

I’m not sure how I made it so far in life without reading Little Women. I have owned a nice hardcover copy for as long as I can remember. I must have read the first few chapters as a kid, because I remember bits of what happened in them, and I came into the book with a vague sense of the characters. And perhaps I saw a movie adaptation, or part of one, as events here and there ring a very faint bell. But overall, it’s new material for me.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (audiobook cover)I’m listening to the audio version narrated by Kate Reading, who is doing a lovely job, except for the fact that she pitches Jo’s voice so low I can’t tell her from Laurie. I’ve just finished Part 1. (I didn’t even realize it had parts!) My feelings about Little Women so far are mostly positive. I’m enjoying the story. I love all the societies and games the sisters make up, like the Pickwick Club and the Busy Bee Society. It’s also set during one of my favorite periods of history, one I’ve always enjoyed learning and reading about. But all the not-so-subtle morals are driving me ever so slightly nuts, and I much prefer the chapters that don’t end with some sort of lesson. I’m still undecided as to whether the explanations of what each sister in turn does or says or feels in a particular situation is a nice way to develop characters or a bit unnecessary. I think these few mild criticisms may have much to do with the fact that I am an older reader than those for whom the book was written.

I’ve heard people say they think Little Women goes over better when you’re younger, and that if you loved it as a child, you’ll keep loving it as an adult, but that if you come to it as an adult, you may not like it as much. I am 100% sure I would have adored Alcott’s classic had I read it as a child. I definitely don’t dislike it now, though, even though I can tell it’s a bit young. On a related note, it’s funny, I definitely remember the girls seeming older to me, probably because I was so much younger when I was first exposed to them. I can’t believe Meg and Laurie are only 16 when the novel begins — that’s so young!

There are a couple of big events I seem to recall happening that have not yet occurred, or that have almost happened and then didn’t, for which I am waiting. I won’t say more in case others don’t know of them!

How are you liking Little Women so far? Did you read it as a child?

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  • http://www.ardentreader.wordpress.com Christina

    Having never read the book before (or seen the movie), I think I’m going to be one of those people who doesn’t love the novel because, in part, I’m not the target age group any more. I’m not much older than the sisters, but it feels like the novel was aimed at 10 to 12 year olds to prevent them from following these older girls’ follies. I think the preachy tone Alcott takes in this novel is what is preventing me from falling in love with it.

  • http://perduedansleslivres.blogspot.com virginie

    You’re right! I really adored the book when I first read it as a kid. I read it again last year with my 12 year old daughter and enjoyed it again, but not as much as when I read it first, for the same reasons you’re mentioning in your post! My daughter loved it and it was her favorite book till this summer (until she read Jane Eyre, which is her new favorite!)

  • http://jillianreadsbooks2.wordpress.com/ Jillian

    I’m so excited that you love this!! EXCELLENT book. :-)

  • http://www.ragingbibliomania.net/ zibilee

    I sort of skimmed this review as this is one that I have not read yet, can you believe it? I am glad that you loved it and I can’t wait to make some time for it!

  • http://bookgirl71.wordpress.com Wendy

    Well, I’m one of those read it as a kid (and everything else I could find by LMA) and I still read it every couple of years and love it folks. I don’t really mind the moralizing and am always disappointed at how much of the faith aspects that are so integral to the story are lost in film versions (though I have the feeling that LMA might have not been quite so morally heavy handed had she truly been free to not give in a little bit to what publishers wanted.) I’m glad you’re enjoying it, anyway.

  • http://bookspersonally.blogspot.com bookspersonally

    Haven’t read this since I was a child – interesting to hear your thoughts on reading it as an adult, would be very curious to see what that experience is like now!

  • http://jennysbooks.wordpress.com Jenny

    I read Little Women when I was a kid and about a trillion times since then. And I always always cry when, uh, you know. When the famously sad thing happens. I don’t even like the character it happens to! But still I bawl like a little baby.

  • http://theeclecticreader.wordpress.com/ carolinareads

    Little Woman is one of my favourite books. Jo is my favourite character. What’s yours?

  • http://litandlife.blogspot.com Lisa

    I got this one for Christmas when I was 8 years old and have loved it for more than 40 years. Several years ago, I read it to my daughter and still loved it, although the “lessons” did grate a bit on me. But knowing the way Alcott was raised, it’s not in the least bit surprising that she would include this in her books.

  • http://www.thebluebookcase.blogspot.com Ingrid

    I just read this book for the first time last year. I thought the characters were flat and the tone much too preachy. However I can totally see the appeal it could have to younger girls … their life just seems so cozy and happy. However, reading it as an adult I didn’t think it had any depth at all.
    I know that a lot of people love this book though.

  • http://www.litchick.typepad.com Melanie

    Funnily enough I just reread it and think I enjoy it more than when I was younger. I find it sweeter and actually like the lessons (there being such a void of it in contemporary younger lit)even though it lacks subtlety. I grow tired of having to preview all my kids books for inappropriateness, so this is refreshing. *SPOILER* Also I vividly recall being irritated that Laurie marries Amy and not Jo when I was a kid. Now I “get it” although I still wish Jo didn’t marry at all…but then there wouldn’t be Jo’s Boys. *END SPOILER*

  • http://herebedragons.posterous.com Hannah

    I read it as a kid and LOVED it. Then I read it about six months ago and found the morals that you mentioned irritating and the book unrealistic/overly idealistic. Recently I read The Heroine’s Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore. It details the lives behind the books. One of her chapters is on Louisa May Alcott. It’s a light read but very interesting; understanding the context LMA was writing in helped me understand the book better as an adult. Happy reading!