By Louisa May Alcott
Grosset & Dunlap, Inc.
I’m not going to call this a review because it’s not. If you want to read more about the book, google it. I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk about what I thought of it on this go around instead.
When I picked this up, I was in a slight reading slump and thought a beloved book from my childhood that I’ve always considered a comfort read would pull me out of it. By page 40, I was so annoyed with everyone — Meg for bemoaning being poor, Jo for her hyper personality, Beth for all her goodness could only talk about being even better, Amy took me to the heights of annoyance over wanting to be so prim, proper and rich, and even dear Marmee started to rankle. They were too perfect. They were too moral. Everything was a lesson. Then something changed. It was that dear old scene where Beth befriends Mr. Laurence and when the little piano arrives, she boldly walks next door to thank him properly for the joy he’s brought her. The two become a pair content in a friendship that comes of music and Beth’s simple nature. My annoyances dropped away and once more I felt at home. It took me a minute though and even when I thought about dropping it, I couldn’t. I didn’t want to leave the story on a bad note.
Sometimes when re-reading a story that is so loved, there creeps in the need to change it or to imagine it with different endings. I’ve heard others talk about wanting Jo and Laurie to get together and while I can see that as a possible ending, and at one point in my life I felt it should have been that way, I found this time that I wanted Jo and the Professor to be together instead. Yes, Jo and Laurie fit together perfectly but they are so alike that it wouldn’t feel satisfying to me now. Somehow just like Marmee said! Jo finds someone who appreciates her outbursts and willingness to learn by throwing herself so fully into things that she forgets about the world around her and there’s something lovely in that simple ending for her. She finds not only love but a partner.
While I still found Jo to be my favorite, Meg and Amy left me wanting this time. They were still, I don’t know how to put this, but still too preoccupied with the thoughts of others. Amy does redeem herself but she felt small and slightly inconsequential. Her romance with Laurie isn’t so much of a romance as a settling for me and maybe that’s why years ago I felt cheated by it and wanted Laurie to be with Jo. Meg has a way of wrapping herself up so tightly in small things that she forgets there are others in her life, and when this happens in her marriage, I didn’t feel for her. It was a normal reaction and the lesson from Marmee felt more like preaching and I sort of glossed over it. Marriage is tough and Meg needed to find that out. Yes, Marmee let her but it didn’t stop any discussion of the lesson learned.
Then there is the moral; make that morals. There’s a lesson to be learned by one and all every day, rich or poor. I felt preached to in the end by people better than me and that frustrated me. Not because I think I’m a bad person, I think the contrary actually, but this time it weighed heavily. It was probably my mood considering how busy life has been during the last few weeks but I was looking for comfort and I got a sermon. I don’t remember it being this way on other reads but somewhere along the way I saw it all differently. And I’m grateful for that. I appreciate being able to take a book I’ve read and loved, re-examine it and look at it from a new perspective. In some ways it became a more satisfying read this time even if I didn’t enjoy it as much. I still adore this story and nothing in the world will change that but it’s interesting to see how my current life and experiences changes my reading and memories.