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September 30, 2009

Reporting from the reading road

So I’m halfway through Little Women, just beginning Part Two and Meg’s wedding. And what I do remember now from the first time I read this is that I was unbelievably confused about who Teddy and Laurie were, and only now do I realize that they were both Theodore Laurence. (And somehow I was also confusing him with Teddy Kent from Emily of New Moon, but that’s neither here nor is it there). In general, I’m not finding the book too rip-roaring, and am looking hungrily to my to-be-read stack and counting the number of pages left (250). But the experience is not without its joys: though the characters are types, they’re also more than a bit surprising, and Jo is as entrancing as Jo’s ever were. (Beth, however, I probably will not mourn so much when it’s time.) Regarding the types: remember Sarah Liss on Little Women as the original Sex and the City? I also absolutely love the self-consciously omniscient narrator.

It strikes me, however, that this is a children’s book in a way that anything penned by L.M. Montgomery is not. I’m revisiting this for the first time since girlhood, and I’m not finding anything new between the lines, unlike when I last reread Anne of Green Gables and discovered the heart of the story is actually Marilla. Also, Little Women is a bit too moralistic, which I realize is the whole point, but it’s sort of retchful, no? I know the girls don’t always manage to be good, but they’re always trying to, and Marmee is so frightfully good (because she’s suppressed her terrible temper) and I just feel as though the March family loves one another a little too much in order to compensate for… something.

So, is this sacrilege? What am I missing? Is this a book one has to fall in love with in childhood? Any illumination would be quite welcome.

UPDATE: Part Two has actually proved to be much more interesting. “Literary Lessons” (Jo’s adventures in publishing) laid out very clearly the confusing nature of writing feedback. And “Domestic Experiences” (where Meg and Brooke’s household descends into chaos when jelly fails to set is funny, poignant, and real). And even Amy’s failed posh fete. I am enjoying it more.

2 thoughts on “Reporting from the reading road”

  1. Rebecca Rosenblum says:

    It's not sacrilege–I've read similar comments before in intros to other LMA books. Maybe one does need to come to this story as a child (I was 6, or maybe less) to get the fun of it and not just the preaching. Because this *is* a moralizing book, and intended to be–remember it starts with (and maybe is structured round) Pilgrim's Progress. And have you read *Invincible Louisa*?? After LMA's life and espcially her father, LW is relatively toned down.

    My favourites of her novels are actually *Eight Cousins* and *An Old-Fashioned Girl*, both unimaginably moral. In EC, a young girl is adopted by her free-thinking feminist uncle and sent to play with her male cousins. Once, her aunts get a hold of her and dress her up in a fashionable outfit and high heels, and Uncle Alex has the best line ever: "And if you should be set upon by wild dogs?"

  2. BabelBabe says:

    I harbored a mad girlhood crush on Uncle Alex.

    and I am with you re: LW. I remember vividly the pickled limes incident….

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