This is my third or fourth reading of Little Women and I still have kind of a love-hate thing with it. Alcott never quite lets you forget that you’re being taught a lesson, and because of this it is hard to get completely lost in the narrative. But, what makes Little Women so enduring (and endearing) is the fantastic characterization of the four principle characters – Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
I think most readers relate to clever, awkward Jo - who is quite clearly meant to represent Alcott herself and is the unofficial ‘star’ of the story. But there is something in each girl which rings true – pretty and proper Meg, sensitive and fragile Beth, vain and spoiled Amy. The novel follows as each has her own journey of self-discovery and personal growth and it all feels pretty darn authentic.
While some of the old fashioned ideas in this novel make me cringe; so many more things are strikingly progressive – that a love match is preferable to a financially advantageous one, that women deserve educational and career opportunities beyond the traditionally prescribed roles. I may have my issues with the book, but I do keep coming back to it for some reason!