Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters
One of the most famous opening lines in literature: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents.” belongs to one of the best-loved books ever written. Yet Little Women has wound up pegged as a children’s book for girls. However, it’s much, much more, and Anne Rioux has done an excellent analysis of the novel and its author, and of the plays, movies, and television versions of the book. It’s probably no surprise that Little Women gets practically no attention from academia –after all, it’s just about girls, right? – although Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are studied over as diligently as if they were the Talmud. Little Women originally was read by men and women of all ages, and for good reason. It’s pretty much the ultimate family novel, and one of the few that really takes us into the world of normal girls growing up. Jo March is one of the most influential female fictional characters, and has inspired more women to become writers than anyone can count.
While I hate falling back on the clichéd description “this is a highly readable book,” it really is. It’s neither too slight nor too scholarly, providing fascinating information about a book more influential then it gets credit for.