I could never love anyone more than I love my sisters.

I can’t remember the first time I read Little Women. I remember what the book looked like, a hardcover with pale flowers on the front that I checked out of the library, but I don’t have any specific memories of reading it. I do remember reading Little Men – I read it in the bathtub, soaking in some mixture that was supposed to help keep my chicken pox from itching quite so much. I didn’t like Little Men as much as Little Women, except for Daisy’s little stove, which isn’t a huge part of the story. I always found it a little off-putting that Jo married someone so old, and I didn’t like reading about him all that much. And I never made it through Jo’s Boys. I read Little Women not long before I read Little Men, but I don’t remember meeting the March family for the first time, which surprises me. It’s such a vivid story, the kind of story I usually remember encountering for the first time. I remember discovering Anne of Green Gables, but not, for whatever reason, Little Women.

My book club is discussing Little Women this month (and the new companion to it, March, which is from Mr. March’s perspective, next month). One of my friends is planning on coming to the discussion, so she just finished the book, and last night we watched the movie (Winona Ryder version) last night. I own the movie, but it was the first time in several years I had actually watched it, as opposed to putting it in because it’s familiar and comforting and I can fall asleep to it. It was also the first time I’d watched it since being married, at least for any length of time, and this is the first time I’ve returned to the story of Little Women (I’m about ¼ of the way through the book) since reading March, which gave an interesting perspective on the family.

And I loved it. I really did. I liked the inclusion of politics, especially after reading March and thinking more about the Alcotts and what they believed about slavery and suffrage. I think including that information added another level to the movie, which I appreciated. As I’ve been reading the book, I’ve recalled so many of the scenes from the movie – Meg letting her friends dress her up, Amy and the limes, the Christmas dinner they gave away. I don’t exactly picture Winona Ryder when I read about Jo, but she has the right eyes to play the part. The March house looks to me like it does in the movie, and Christian Bale is exactly how I picture Laurie.

I wonder sometimes if Little Women could even be published these days – it’s a little preachy, and the story’s kind of long for a children’s book, and wouldn’t the editors require a different ending? Louisa May Alcott has disappointed generations of girls who think that Jo should end up with Laurie. I’ve paid lip service to the fact that the author was right, that Jo and Laurie weren’t right for each other, but I never actually believed it. Last night, though, when Laurie was proposing and saying how they wouldn’t fight and he’d change and she didn’t have to write unless she wanted to, I finally got it. I got that he didn’t really understand Jo if he would say that she didn’t have to write (in the book, he doesn’t say that, but she does say that he would hate all her “scribbling”). I got that she, who struggled with her temper, needed a different kind of person. I got that they actually aren’t right for each other, which I haven’t seen before because movie Laurie is so cute and appealing. I still wish the Professor wasn’t quite so old, but I’ll admit that Louisa May was right after all. It took being married for a while to see it, so I admire Jo for knowing what was right.

My friend said she cried the whole way through the book as she read it this time, and she cried last night, too. I cried a little bit when Beth died (I mean, when they’re putting the flower petals on Beth’s dolls, it’s just a bit much! They’re goading me into crying!), but I saved my good cry for the car ride home. I’m anxious to get to that part of the book, because I remember the movie version so much better.

Little Women isn’t one of my favorite books, but I love how sincere it is, the whole way through. I love that the girls are trying to make themselves better, I love the plays they put on, I love that they give their Christmas dinner away. I read a lot of books that are more jaded, and maybe they have more interesting or important things to say, but it’s nice to return to Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy every now and then. I’m really looking forward to the discussion.

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