American Authors: Louisa May Alcott

Liz: This month is American Author month on Our Mutual Friends blog, and this week our author is Louisa May Alcott of Little Women fame.
As most of you, I read Little Women as a teen for school and saw the movie with Winona Ryder. Here are my comments on the tale:
  1. It deserves its status as a classic story.
  2. I can’t believe they used an actual iron to straighten their hair.
  3. Let’s just say nobody better destroy a manuscript of mine.
  4. Poor Laurie. Love you like a brother.
  5. Sometimes a good scolding from a pretty girl can bring a guy back from his dissolute ways.
  6. How exactly do you pronounce “Bhaer”? (Jaz: Jo writes that it’s a cross between “bear” and “beer.” Bah-eer?) And did he have to be so much older than Jo?
  7. I admire the Littles’ charitable spirit.
  8. A tragic death seems to be inevitable in a classic. R.I.P. Beth
  9. If you feel inclined to see how your first name would look with a certain guy’s last name, don’t leave the slip of paper lying around where someone else can find it.
  10. If you have an interesting life like Jo’s, write about it instead of writing trashy or gory tales or whatever else is popular.
In addition to Little Women, I’ve read three other Louisa May Alcott tales. Eight Cousins and its sequel Rose in Bloom were entertaining and enjoyable books, particularly Eight Cousins—a tale of an orphan girl and her hitherto unknown family, including a very likable bachelor uncle who becomes her guardian, seven male cousins, and several aunts and uncles. My favorite Louisa May Alcott is about a boy who runs away from the circus with a trained dog after his father, who left to find a better job, didn’t return. The boy and his dog are befriended by two girls and eventually taken in by a kind woman. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the name of the book. (Note from Jaz: I googled it. Under the Lilacs. I forgot about this one — thanks for the reminder!)

Jaz: If I were to rewrite Little Women, it would go something along these lines:

Amy, the spoiled little brat, dies in Beth’s place. Beth marries the cute crippled boy and they produce five happy, healthy children. Jo and Laurie wed after all, globetrot the year round, and get into trouble and adventures. Marmie catches whatever it was Amy got, dies nobly and tragically, and the father returns from the war to board comfortably with Laurie’s lovable old uncle next door (Beth keeps the house). Meg moves far, far away with John The Tutor Man. Mr. Bhaer never enters the picture.

I read Little Women eagerly at the age of 11. Several rereads later I realized it was a bit … saccharine. And preachy. The end, where Joe marries the professor, seems abrupt, as if the author married her off simply to please her audience. Maybe not. It is a good book, well-written and full of most excellent morals and amusing situations. My cynical opinions are likely due to an overdose of L. M. Alcott literature. Among the novels I read (Little Men, Jo’s Boys, Jack and Jill, etc etc etc…), An Old Fashioned Girl and Eight Cousins proved the most enjoyable. Also, don’t forget to check out The Inheritance, Alcott’s first novel. It gives an enlightening look into the talent and imagination of a 17-year-old aspiring novelist.

These books are pleasant reading enough, but – as I learned the hard way – a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Which explains why I found her sensational romance novel, A Long Fatal Love Chase, refreshing. Romance! Intrigue! Suspense! And all so delightfully overdone. And if you can find other earlier novels of hers, I’d suggest those as well. You may be surprised.


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