adventures with Alcott

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  You should also read her biography, Invincible Louisa.  It's amazing to read about how poor they really were and how they really lived.

For the past week or so, I’ve been reading, watching, living, and breathing the adventures of the March family.  I’ve read Little Women and Little Men before, of course, but it was quite a while ago, and this time around, the whole experience was so much richer.  Every so often, I get the urge to read a homey, comfortable, charming book, and Little Women is definitely that.  I gained a new appreciation for certain characters – namely Laurie, Amy, and John Brooke – and enjoyed each moment spent reading about the joys and trials of the four sisters, their parents, their friends, and their loves.  Laurie stole my heart by sending for Marmee when Beth is so ill (he probably sent her the money for her fare, too), by being there for Amy when Beth dies, and by talking to Meg at the ball, like a real brother would.  Amy impressed and inspired me with how much she matured and changed through the course of the story.  And I like John a lot.  I think he gets a bad rap based mainly on all the on-screen portrayals of him, but he’s a great husband, father, and brother-in-law.  His relationship with Meg is lovely to read about.

And, no, I don’t ship Jo and Laurie.  At the point in their lives when he proposed, he was too immature and Jo was still such a spitfire, and it wouldn’t have worked out.  I think Amy completes and complements Laurie, and the same with Jo and Professor Bhaer. (I have a bit of a crush on Professor Bhaer.  He’s wonderful, with how he encourages Jo to be her best for herself and not other people.)

Little Men, junior deluxe editions 1955, photo by Scott Lindberg

After reading Little Women, I had to go ahead and re-visit Little Men.  I didn’t like it better than Little Women, but both books have their own special place in my heart, and I couldn’t really have one without the other.  Both of them are full of little episodic moments – Little Men more so – which I don’t really mind, but it would’ve been nice to have a more cohesive plot.  Anyway, I think the main reason I enjoy Little Men as much as I do, is because of the characters – I love them all, just as in Little Women.  Jo and Frederick are still their warm, happy, kindhearted selves (Jo has tamed down quite a bit, but you still do catch glimpses of her indomitable spirit).  Laurie is as fun-loving as ever, and all the new characters – the boys (and Daisy and Nan) – are wonderful.  Demi, Ned, Emil, Nat, Tommy, Ted, Rob, etc., etc.  And Dan.  Especially Dan.

I LOVE DAN.  He tries.  He really tries.  After those first few incidents with the fight and the cow and the fire, after he goes away and runs away and then comes back, he tries so hard to be good and stay at Plumfield.  His interactions with Teddy melt my heart every time (just as they do with Jo).  Yes, he’s rough and a little wild at times when he can’t help it, but he’s one of Jo’s boys, and she never gave up on him, so I don’t either.  The ‘Damon and Pythias’ chapter stood out to me the most when Mom read Little Men to me and my siblings when we were younger, and it’s still my favorite chapter.  And the part where he tames the colt. (Oh, what a metaphor…)  Out of all four books in the series (if you count Good Wives as book 2), Dan is my favorite character, and as these few sentences are frightfully inadequate for explaining just why that’s the case, look for a post all about Dan coming soon(ish).

(I highly recommend this fanfiction, and this one if you’re also a fan of Dan.)

Good Book. Jo's Boys by Louisa May Alcott. Love this one best of all her books...except maybe Under the Lilacs

Then, it was time for Jo’s Boys.

Me reading Jo’s Boys:

*opens book* Ah, I can’t wait to re-visit all the characters from Little Men.
A few chapters later: It’s kind of boring, but all the boys are still awesome, especially Dan.  But he has a beard.  That’s weird.  Oh, well, I’ll just ignore it.

Later: Wow, this is really boring.  Too much moralizing.  Whole chapters of it.  But at least the Josie-wanting-to-be-an-actress thing is interesting.  I wish Alcott would focus more on Dan everyone else, though.  And am I the only one who sees definite similarities between Nan and Tom’s relationship and Jo and Laurie’s (from Little Women, that is)?
Still Later: Nat’s going to rack and ruin in Germany?  Meg won’t let him marry Daisy?  Emil’s shipwrecked?  AND DAN’S IN JAIL FOR MURDER???  WHY CAN’T THERE BE HAPPINESS ANYMORE?
*picks up book after abandoning it for several minutes* Emil’s awesome.  Well, at least Nat’s getting his life turned around for the better now.  Why’s everyone suddenly getting engaged?  Why does Alcott stop the story to talk about women’s suffrage for chapters on end?
The Dan-Suffering-In-Prison Chapter: MY POOR BABY.  HE ONLY DID IT IN SELF-DEFENSE.  DON’T DO ANYTHING STUPID AND GET YOUR SENTENCE LENGTHENED.  Now he’s crying…OH, MAN, I JUST WANT TO REACH THROUGH THE BOOK AND HUG HIM. *feeeeeeeeeeeeeels*
Rest of the book: Well, everything’s turning out okay.  Dan’s back home, everyone’s happily married or engaged.  EXCEPT DAN.  Who, it seems, will never get a happy ending.  WHICH IS NOT FAIR.  I’m soooo glad Nat and Daisy are going to live happily ever after, though.  They’re both sweet.  Now she’s wrapping up the story and-DAN DIED.  DAN. DIED.  DEFENDING THE INDIANS.  NOOOOOOOOO.
*spends the rest of the day moping around the house because DAN*

All the above is an absolutely accurate account of my thoughts and reactions.  Nothing is exaggerated (NOTHING).  I hated the book but I loved certain parts so, suffice to say, I’m still feeling very conflicted about the whole thing.

Little Women

And then there were the two film adaptions I watched recently (as in, yesterday and the day before that).  In my opinion, there hasn’t been a definitive version yet, and I don’t think there ever will be, but the ’49 and the ’94 adaptions did excellent jobs nonetheless.  There were things about both that I adored, but neither movie got all the casting or the script quite right.  For instance, although I love Professor Bhaer’s casting in the ’94 adaption, he and Jo would NOT have kissed anywhere except under the umbrella.  Because he thought he had no hope of winning her and that she would never see him as anything but a father figure, so he definitely wouldn’t have kissed her.  In terms of everyone else’s casting, I think the ’94 adaption is better, overall, but they got Younger Amy wrong.  She’s more…sophisticated than that, even as a child.  But I can’t decide between Peter Lawford and Christian Bale when it comes to Laurie.  I just can’t.  I think the ’94 film captures the tone and mood of the book better than the ’49 one, but both adaptions have their good and bad points, in mostly equal amount.

My recommendation: Read the books.  Watch the films.  They make me feel happy every time, and I’ll bet they’ll do the same for you.

Eva

P.S. I know there was supposed to be a Friday Finds post today.  But I started writing this post and time got away from me.  Next week, though – I promise!

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8 thoughts on “adventures with Alcott

  1. Now, I THOUGHT – judging from your Pinterest – that you were in a Little Women mood or something. 😛

    I love Little Women, but I admit I don’t like it as much as you do. Louisa May Alcott is sometimes a bit too preachy, I think, and veeeeery sometimes I get the Elsie Dinsmore-feeling. BUT I do really love the books. They’re so COSY. As you said: They make you feel so happy 🙂

    ~ Naomi

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  2. Yeah, Jo’s Boys is kind of a mixed bag. Some parts I like, others I dislike, others are mediocre. But I am glad that Alcott decided to focus on Emil a bit and gave him such a nice storyline, because I always liked him, even back in Little Men when he was a bit of a troublemaker sometimes.

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  3. No, I totally agree with you–the Jo and Laurie ship is NOT A THING. Or at any rate it shouldn’t be. There is no way they would have been able to form a harmonious marriage. None. Zero. Zilch.
    I know, it’s really sad what happens to Dan in Jo’s Boys. I think that, with Dan, Alcott was kind of trying to make a character who had severe handicaps in life–his character flaws (which he inherited from his father), his terrible early upbringing, etc. So that, he couldn’t quite make it to have a happy, “normal” life like all the other characters–but he still made a difference in the world and he still managed to save his soul in the end, which is what really counts. But it’s still terribly sad.

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    • Dan is amazing. The thing is, whenever I read Little Men now, I always get emotional, ’cause I know about everything that happens in Jo’s Boys. 😦 Do you prefer Little Men or Little Women?

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  4. Pingback: THANK YOU | coffee, classics, & craziness

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