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Little Women / Good Wives (1869)

por Louisa May Alcott

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Séries: Little Women (1&2)

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14,284190374 (4.11)27
Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.
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Mostrando 1-5 de 188 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
This is another classic that I had never read before, but have seen a movie or other adaptation of more than once in the past. In this case, I've only seen the 1994 movie with Winona Ryder as Jo, though I have seen it more than once over the years. I also did read the Great Illustrated Classic adaptation with my daughter just over a year ago, but this was my first time reading the full, unabridged version, technically listening to the audiobook. Be aware, there will be spoilers in this review, so read on at your own risk.

One of the things that struck me the most about the full story is how much these sisters thrive in their environment. This is a time period where women are oppressed and kept in their place, and while at some times this makes tomboy Jo unhappy, she doesn't have to completely rebel in order to make some inroads and even do what she wants to do. In fact, most of what gets in her way as a writer is her own ideas, plans, hopes, dreams, failings, and attempts to be a better person. In modern times, we if we want to write historical fiction where women aren't just stuck in a box, they are often wild and outrageous (but at least they manage to meet that one man who's okay with the woman who refuses to wear a dress or attend any formal functions). I think that's one of the biggest things I love about Jo.

I also really like the fact that most of the way through the story, the March sisters are striving to better themselves. They are quite poor, but vow to be happy with what they have and avoid grumbling, even as they allow themselves hopes for the future in which they find wealth in one way or the other (different for each girl). And though I speak generally, Beth is usually perfectly content with what she has. Speaking of Beth, how well did I relate to that quiet, shy girl. Even too scared to go to the neighbor's house who'd extended an open invitation so she could exercise her talent on his piano...that would definitely be me.

I loved the references made to Pilgrim's Progress in the first half of the book, which plays a lot into what I mentioned above, about the sisters trying to be happy with what they have and be good "pilgrims." I've never read Pilgrim's Progress, though I've always thought I should (tried once, but I'm really not good at sticking with books that are hard to read), and now I wish I had. The reference back to the pilgrims and the game the sisters played when they were younger, shortly before Beth's death, made the tragedy of her death all the more emotional to me.

On probably the most disputed point of this book, though I never lamented over the fact that Jo rebuffed Laurie, it did always seem strange to me that he ended up marrying little Amy. However, after reading this book, I think Louisa May Alcott did a fine job setting up the ways the various romances went. I could certainly see that Jo had no romantic feelings for Laurie and had good reason to think that they wouldn't have a very pleasant marriage. And when Amy was still young, a connection grew between her and Laurie that paved the way for their love later. Jo's feelings for Professor Bhaer came very naturally, and it was easy to see why she fell in love with this mature man of integrity and morals.

Before I wrap up, I want to say a few words about Barbara Caruso, the narrator of the audiobook I listened to. I haven't listened to many audiobooks and can really only listen to certain types of books that way, since my mind tends to miss details if I'm not careful. Also, like many others I'm sure, the narrator can really make or break my enjoyment, and I've discovered that I'm really picky about it. Which is why I'm really glad that this is the narrator I listened to for this book, because she did a fantastic job! I really liked how she brought the characters to life and even managed to have slight differences between the sisters. Her reading of foreign words or sentences (French and German) and accents for characters like the German Bhaer are incredible. I will definitely look for her when I listen to other books that she has narrated. ( )
  Kristi_D | Sep 22, 2023 |
I can understand it if some reading this today consider it to be insufficiently woke, but I found it quite remarkable. It is a bit disappointing that the dreams of independence planted in the first part of the novel aren't fully realized in the second, but that supports the message that in the passage from childhood to adulthood something is inevitably lost. That message is timeless, and I haven't seen it done better then in Little Women.
( )
  fegolac | Aug 31, 2023 |
Little Women is very much a character-driven novel, having only a loose plot to keep it going much of the time. It also includes quite a bit of moralizing, with an omniscient narrator and various characters passing judgments and giving lectures. Some scenes seem explicitly designed to teach a particular character a particular lesson. And sometimes the lesson involves some quite old-fashioned values.

But the charm of the book for me lay in the pieces in between, the simple scenes of family life, of fun and friendship. It paints a picture of another time, illustrating in great detail how women lived their lives. It also shows a loving and supportive family, bringing each character to life. It warmed my heart simply to see them being kind to one another and bringing joy to themselves and their friends. I don't remember the last time I've read a modern book that created such an effect.

The writing isn't particularly skillful, and I found the beginning chapters especially rough, but the author did skillfully weave in a few story elements that, once introduced, kept me reading on to see the solution to the mystery or the resolution of the little conflict. The characterization, in my opinion, is the crowning feature. Each character felt like a real person, not an allegorical invention or a stereotype or a half-baked figment of an author's imagination.

But readers should not expect this book to be free of sexism because it was written by a woman and centers around female characters. There certainly are "lessons" included about being a good housewife, and it's even explicitly stated that this is the best thing for a woman to become. Personally, I enjoyed the first half of the book far more than the second, preferring the scenes of childhood and the early teenage years to those of young women trying to make matches. Given the fact that the book is clearly separated into a part one and part two, the first part having what I consider a satisfying ending, I almost wish that I'd stopped reading there.

If you decide to read this book, you might do that yourself. Of course, I tend to dislike romance as a genre even in contemporary books, so you might enjoy the second half significantly more than I did. Ultimately, I think the question of whether you'll like this book comes down to your tolerance for moralizing and whether you'll get bored without a stronger plot. To me, this seems the kind of book best read in little pieces day by day, treating it as a window into the past. If you're anything like me, you'll enjoy the view while also being glad to close the cover and come back to a world where women can do more and be more than the March family ever would have dreamed. This book is part of our cultural history, best viewed as a stepping-stone along the path of feminism rather than a shining ideal of it in and of itself. ( )
  dste | Aug 20, 2023 |
A classic I'm glad I read. ( )
  mykl-s | Aug 12, 2023 |
This review is an abridged version of the full review I wrote for my blog, which can be read here. Little Women was part of my TIMES 100 Best YA Challenge.

I think overall, Little Women was pleasant and quaint. I think it gets a little heavy handed and preachy at times with holding wifehood and motherhood in such high esteems, but I say that with a grain of salt since I know this was in the Civil War era and, wouldn’t ya know it, society looked a lot differently at the time.

I was surprised at how big of a role Protestantism played in the story. I guess I’d never heard that that was an element in the book, and coming from a much more secular time period I wasn’t expecting that. It didn’t throw me out too hard though, as someone who grew up around a lot of Protestants, I thought the book used a lot of the positive morals and messages from the religion, I thought it was nice.

Overall, I don’t know that this book was necessarily for me, but I think that’s in part the way I read it. I don’t think this book is a nice book to read for fun or for class assignment, but I think it would work (especially part one) as a series of bedtime stories for children. It’s so episodic and the overarching plot is loose enough that it would make good bite-sized stories. I touch on this more in my blog post (linked above).

I’m giving Little Women three stars, though I know I’m biased for the time period I’m in and how far feminism and storytelling has come since the 1860s. I think it’s a charming story, but Jo’s character assassination in the end was really rough. I think, structurally, it might work better to separate the two novels as they were initially published, because lumping them together really makes things drag. Still, I liked it overall and I can appreciate its cultural influence.

For more of my thoughts, you can visit my blog by clicking here. ( )
  HannahRenea | Apr 25, 2023 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 188 (seguinte | mostrar todos)

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Nome do autorPapelTipo de autorObra?Estado
Louisa May Alcottautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Jambor, LouisIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Showalter, ElaineEditorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Tudor, TashaIlustradorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
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Between Meg and Marmee:

"He's away all day, and at night when I want to see him, he is continually going over to the Scotts'. It isn't fair that I should have the hardest work, and never any amusement. Men are very selfish, even the best of them."
"So are women. Don't blame John till you see where you are wrong yourself." (Chapter 38, Gutenberg.org edition)
Gentlemen, which means boys, be courteous to the old maids, no matter how poor and plain and prim, for the only chivalry worth having is that which is the readiest to pay deference to the old, protect the feeble, and serve womankind, regardless of rank, age, or color. (Chapter 43, Gutenberg.org edition)
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This LT work is the complete, unabridged Little Women , containing both Part First (originally published in 1868) and Part Second (published in 1869). American editions almost always contain both parts. UK and European editions frequently contain only Part First, with Part Second being published separately as Good Wives. If you are not sure which version you have, check the table of contents. Part First ends with Chapter 23, "Aunt March Settles the Question." Part Second ends with the chapter entitled "Harvest Time". Please do not combine with editions that contain only Little Women: Part I., or with any abridgments, adaptations, or film versions.
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Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

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