My third post in the 26-books-in 52-weeks challenge has to be about a book published over a hundred years ago. It was a difficult choice as there are lots of classic books in this category that mean a lot to me. But in the end I decided to go for one I first read when I was around eleven-years-old, and then reread several times after that, and that is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.
A fact I didn’t know until I came to write this post was that Little Women was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. But by the time I read it in the 1960s it was available all one book.
I loved the story of the four March sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Perhaps some of its appeal for me came from the fact that I am myself one of five sisters. They were all distinctive characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. I identified most with Jo, the one who was a bit stubborn and resisted convention, and who loved books and writing.
The story is set in America during the American Civil War and the sisters are all young women living at home in a small town with their mother. Their father is an army chaplain and is away from home for most of the story.
During the story, the four sisters face up to poverty, illness and bereavement but they also grow up, fall in love and develop resilience and self-reliance. Part of its appeal for me (and I’m sure still is for young readers nowadays) was that it showed girls and women as being independent thinkers capable of making their own decisions.
I went on to read and enjoy Little Women‘s two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, as well.
By coincidence BBC Radio 4’s daily Woman’s Hour programme recently broadcast a serial dramatisation of the book. It was a great way to revisit it. An audio CD of the serialisation is available here.
Little Women is available in various editions and from various publishers. The cover image above is from the MacMillan Collector’s Library edition.