Thursday 4 August 2011

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" Series

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" - 1868
Alcott, Louisa May "Good Wives"  - 1869
Alcott, Louisa May "Little Men" - 1871
Alcott, Louisa May "Jo's Boys" - 1886

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Women" - 1868

This was one of the first books I read in English. I loved it. I love classics and this one is one that brings you right back into that time.

The description of the March girls and their lives is just fabulous. You feel like you've almost been there with them, shared with them in their problems and dreams.

Granted, nowadays the characters would have been very different, but that is the beauty of reading something from days gone by. The relations not only between the sisters and their friends and relatives but especially to their parents were very different as different things were expected from them. The March family was probably an exception to the rule as the girls were encouraged to do whatever they wanted to. And the parents had a very different opinion about education at the time, even very modern compared to a lot of systems nowadays. Another reason to love this book.

In the States, this is now published just as the second part of "Little Women" but Louisa May Alcott wrote this as a separate book, so I will comment on it separately.

From the back cover:
"Little Women is the delightful story of the four March girls and their approach towards womanhood.

Meg, the eldest and most beautiful, shrugs off her vanity and social ambition, discovering fulfillment in romantic love. Boyish Jo on the other hand, with her contempt of all 'lovering', turns impetuously towards writing for solace. Gentle Beth rejects worldly interests, preferring to devote her life to her family, to the joy of music and to timidly aiding all who suffer in life. Amy, the youngest and most imperfect of the March girls, continually tries to overcome her selfishness and girlish pretensions, though he has a hard task before her.

The progress of these four 'little women' is narrated along the lines of Bunyan's pilgrim, and we are shown how - encountering struggles and learning important lessons along the way - each one attains her own Celestial City.

Alcott, Louisa May "Good Wives" - 1869

I thought this sequel was just as superb as the first one. The girls growing up, having different kind of problems as before, falling in love, carrying on the path their parents prepared. Coping with a lot of hardships, death, separation, misunderstandings. You just want to be there with them and for them.

"Louisa May Alcott's captivating story opens with joyful, bustling preparations for a family wedding.

Three years on from
Little Women, the four March girls have developed into young adults, with their eyes directed towards the future. Meg embarks on wedded life with the carefree optimism of a new bride, yet all is not plain sailing. Aided by her mother's firm but gentle guidance and the harsh lessons which experience brings, Meg struggles towards the goals of blissful marriage and motherhood. Meanwhile, her sister Jo dons the 'scribbling suit' and again tries for success in writing, but the young 'my lady' Amy discovers greater gifts than art in her travels abroad. Only meek little Beth has no ambition beyond her home comforts and, though her burden is heaviest of all, she too discovers peace at last.

Poignant and comic in turns, Good Wives is the fitting, if unexpected, conclusion to the careers of the merry 'little women'.

Alcott, Louisa May "Little Men" - 1871
The third of the four "Little Women" books. The girls are all grown up and have children of their own. Jo opens her school in Plumfield, together with her husband Friedrich Bhaer. New characters are added, old ones disappear and Jo and Friedrich have to struggle and fight for their boys quite a few times. But they manage this all with the grace you expect from the March girls. Very nice read.

"At Plumfield, an experimental school for boys, the little scholars can do very much as they please, even slide down banisters. For this is what writer Jo Bhaer, once Jo March of Little Women, always wanted: a house "swarming with all stages of...effervescence." At the end of Little Women, Jo inherited the Plumfield estate from diamond-in-the-rough Aunt March. Now she and her husband, Professor Bhaer, provide their irrepressible charges with a very different sort of education - and much love. In fact, Jo confesses, she hardly knows 'which I like best, writing or boys.' Here is the story of the ragged orphan Nat, spoiled Stuffy, wild Dan, and all the other lively inhabitants of Plumfield, whose adventures have captivated generations of readers."

Alcott, Louisa May "Jo's Boys” - 1886

The last "Little Women" novel.

Now the boys have all grown up. Most of the characters from "Little Men" have left the school but they still keep returning to Plumfield bringing a lot of upheaval and uproar with them.
It is amazing how fascinating Louisa May Alcott's novels are - even more than 120 years after first being published.

"Best known for the novels Little Women and Little Men, Louisa May Alcott brought the story of her feisty protagonist Jo and the adventures and misadventures of the March family to an entertaining, surprising, and bittersweet conclusion in Jo’s Boys. Beginning ten years after Little Men, Jo’s Boys revisits Plumfield, the New England school still presided over by Jo and her husband, Professor Bhaer. Jo remains at the center of the tale, surrounded by her boys - including rebellious Dan, sailor Emil, and promising musician Nat - as they experience shipwreck and storm, disappointment and even murder.

Popular for over a century, Alcott’s series still holds universal appeal with its powerful and affectionate depiction of family - the haven where the prodigal can always return, adversity is shared, and our dreams of being cherished, despite our flaws, come true. In this edition of
Jo’s Boys, readers once again experience a treasured classic by one of America’s best-loved writers."

Another book by Louisa May Alcott: "Eight Cousins".

If you want to know more about Mr. March, the "Little Women's" father, read "March" by Geraldine Brooks.


  1. People who like Louisa Alcott may try to read in comparison a British author: Charlotte Mary Yonge "The Daisy Chain". Yonge's life story was rather similar to Alcott's, and some think that Ethel May, the central figure in the "Daisy Chain" (1856), may have been a model for Jo March (1868).
    But within these similarities we can observe the differences between a British/High Church view of life and its American/Unitarian counterpart.

    1. Thank you, Rainer, that sounds very interesting. I have lived in England and love anything British, so I will surely find a copy of this book.