Bookshelf: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Friday, September 6, 2019
I haven't read many books from the nineteenth century. Before picking up Little Women, I had previously read two books from this time, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Frankenstein I really enjoyed, and Scarlet Letter was a chore to get through. The only reason I read those novels was because they were part of the curriculum at school, which is the only reason I didn't delete my copy of that horrible book from my nook. So, all that being said, this is the first time I've willingly read a novel this old.

Also, it should be mentioned that the only reason I picked up this book is because I got really into the trailer for Greta Gerwig's upcoming film adaptation, and I will be going to see it the first day it opens.

At the start I was reading a chapter at a time, because I was still getting used to the language and writing style of the 1800's. It also helps that I got the Barnes & Noble Classics edition, so it comes with footnotes that explain the cultural references of the time so that isn't totally lost on the reader. It was more about getting the rhythm down of the prose and how the characters talk, and then translate it to my twenty-first century English, and I enjoyed that challenge of conquering the book. And as I adjusted to the style, and got more into the story, I was able to pick up the pace of my reading.

Full disclosure: I have seen the 1994 film adaptation of Little Women, and watched the episode of Friends where Joey got super into the book because it was flying around twitter after the trailer for the new movie was released.

So, I pretty much knew what was going to happen in the book. But, I was still gripped. I knew the events but I didn't know what had been changed or dropped for the movie, and I didn't get the full picture of the March sisters because there aren't whole chapters devoted to them. And since the movie primarily focused on Jo, the way I felt about the other three were how they affected Jo and didn't get as much of a sense of who they were and how they changed over time. Especially in regards to Amy, who I hope gets her due in the upcoming film adaptation that it doesn't seem like she did in the others.

Most of the books I read for fun are usually newly released books, because they're new stories that haven't been spoiled because they really haven't entered pop culture or been adapted into something popular and you can be surprised. And I think it's good to go back and read these classics. Some of them you may not even think you know the ending to because there are adaptations that change some things because there are things you can do in a novel that you can't in a two hour movie. Then there are some that are just adaptations in name only.

It's important to read these books that are considered classics still, find out why they are considered classics, and maybe reevaluate whether those books are a relic of the past, or stand the test of time. And that's an important discourse to have about works of art, whether we should move forward with or without them, enter some works that were paid less attention, for whatever reason, their due, and add newer works to the canon.

Given that this book is still being read 150 years after it was originally published, and is still being adapted for film, I'd say that we should continue to have Little Women on our shelf.

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