Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Little Women Revisited

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead. - Louisa May Alcott

When asked to name my favorite book - I never hesitate. It is, without a doubt, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I can remember still the day that I received my personal copy of the book - red, hard-covered and inscribed with a message from my aunt who had given it to me for my birthday.

I devoured the book for many, many reasons. It was set during the American Civil War, one of my favorite time periods in history (I am also a closet Gone with the Wind fan!). It was about women and in particular, one very strong woman named Jo. I come from a long line of strong women (my mother is coincidentally one of four sisters) so any connection along those lines hooks me immediately! It had romance- which is tame compared to what we find in literature today. Most importantly - as I read the book, the characters jumped off the page at me and I could imagine being there in that house with the March sisters.

So - I was intrigued by a recent NPR piece that focused on a mother-daughter book club that read Little Women and the reflections of women who as a child found Jo to be their favorite character and with the passage of time are not so sure about that choice. Was Jo someone to look up to or an unrealistic ideal? Was the message of the book not as rebellious as I remembered but rather another voice shouting the merits of marriage and home and hearth?

I plan to re-read the book again soon - perhaps with my Second Grade niece as we work on her summer reading or maybe all by myself. And I wonder if the next time I am asked to name my favorite book if my answer will be the same....stay tuned!

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