Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Louisa May Alcott

'Amy we must go. Good-by dear, do come and see us, we are pining for a visit. I don’t dare to ask you, Mr Lamb; but if you should come, I don’t think I should have the heart to send you away.’ Jo March, Little Women

One of my favourite scenes in Good Wives is Calls where Jo reluctantly pays social calls with Amy and wickedly imitates May Chester’s gushing conversational style. This results in trouble for Amy in the subsequent chapter Consequences where she helps out with the art stall at the Chester’s fate and pays the price for Jo’s thoughtlessness. Those who find Little Women sentimental may be surprised at Alcott’s brilliance at dialogue and social satire in these chapters. I’ve just re-read Little Women and Good Wives recently and found it as fresh and charming as ever. 

I took a little trip to Heffers in Cambridge last week. There is something magical about Cambridge in winter with its cobbled streets lit up for Christmas and the great colleges against the skyline. I was looking for a biography or collections of Alcott’s letters but couldn’t find anything so I bought Meg, Jo Beth and Amy - The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux. 

It contains some fascinating facts about the life of Louisa May Alcott. She wrote most of Little Women in 10 weeks(!) at the requests of her publisher who wanted a book for girls. I was interested in the scenes that were cut from the original manuscript of Good Wives - Amy visiting a casino in Europe, Amy having more than one suitor and Laurie passionately kissing Jo when he proposes to her! Rioux goes into extensive detail about the film, television and theatrical adapations of Little Women which I am not particularly interested in but it’s an enjoyable read.

Do you love Little Women?


Audrey said...

I'm always surprised when there isn't a biography (or at least not a contemporary one) of someone like LMA, so I'm glad you found this book! (I haven't read it yet but would like to.) I'm lucky enough to live near the Alcott's house in Concord, Massachusetts so that was a lovely way to learn more about them.

Carol said...

I've read a few of Alcott's books, including Little Women which I love, but I haven't read Good Wives. It's not as easy to find that one either. My girls enjoyed 'Invincible Louisa' a bio by Cornelia Meigs which won the Newbery Medal in 1934. I read it a long time ago & enjoyed it then but can't really remember much about it now.

Nadia A said...

I love LW and enjoy rereading it now and again. I was considering buying the new edition that has a forward by Patti Smith, but just might wait and see what Christmas brings :) This book you mention sounds interesting - I may just have to give it a read - thanks :)

Alice said...

Little Women is one of those ebooks I wish I had read when I was younger rather my 20s. I saw the adaptation before I read it and feel like I missed out on falling into that world as a child. I did read Six Cousins when I was young though and loved that. LMA is one of those authors you can keep revisiting again and again. I didn't realise there were bits that were cut and that it was written so quickly!

Vintage Reading said...

Audrey, how wonderful to live in Concord. I dream of visiting Orchard House!

Hi Carol, thanks for alerting me to that Alcott biography. Always interested in reading about her.

Nadia, Patti Smith, really? Strange because she appeared recently on a programme about Emily Bronte on BBC.

Alice, I think I was around 10 when I saw a BBC adaption and then read it as a teenager and I think if you read it at an impressionable age you never forget it! I've not yet read Rose in Bloom or any of the others.

Kat said...

Great post! i'm getting to this post rather late, but, yes, I love Little Women. I've read it many times, and reread the Christmas chapter. Believe it or not, I prefer it to Dickens's A Christmas Carol. And I did visit Orchard House in Concord some years back. I'd love to go again, but I don't go east very often.

Am looking forward to reading Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.