Love and Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott - Love

I had the great joy of watching Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ on the big screen, this past week. I won’t spend this post purely gushing, because there is a lot to gush about in this movie. The sets, the similarities between the sets and the interiors of Orchard House, where I have had the pleasure of visiting in person, the exquisite costumes, the acting… and so much more were a pure delight. I wasn’t too sure about the non-linear storytelling in the movie. Sometimes I found the juxtaposition of scenes a little confusing – and they certainly were too much for my 8 year old- who shouted mid- cinema – “Look Beth is alive again!”

She also lamented – why does this story have to be so sad! But in my mind – the poignancy of the story is one of the greatest strengths of the plot and why it feels so endearing even centuries later.

As I’ve been re-hashing the Little Women story by Louisa May Alcott, over and over in my mind, in recent days, I thought it would be nice to muse about Love and Little Women, and examine all the different kinds of love we witness in one of the most enduring children’s stories of all time. (PS : this post contains spoilers so don’t read it if you haven’t read the book yet. And if you haven’t read the book yet – what are you doing?!).

 

So here goes my essay – Love and Little Women- specially for Valentine’s Day:

1) Jo and Laurie

They are the quintessential pair at the heart of the story. They are inseparable, they grow up together and in the eyes of Alcott – they have TOO much in common. So, when Laurie professes his love to Jo and she rejects him, our hearts are broken because we don’t want their unique bond to break. Here is a love that is youthful, powerful and passionate.

 

2) Jo and Meg

The eldest March sisters, Jo and Meg, have a sweet relationship. Jo is fiercely possessive of her older sister and dislikes her growing up and assuming grown up ways. She certainly dislikes any amorous attentions that anyone might show Meg.

 

3) Jo and Beth

It is endearing to see how protective and nurturing Jo is towards Beth. These two sisters have opposite temperaments, Jo being strong and Beth weak. Nevertheless, the differences between the sisters means that they depend on one another deeply. Beth depends on Jo to provide her with courage. And Jo depends on Beth for love and affection and for the example she sets. Beth reminds everyone that she meets of the virtue of being good.

 

4) Jo and Amy

Jo and Amy are the two March sisters with the most artistic temperaments. Jo with her passion for writing and Amy with her passion for painting are constantly sparring with one another. Amy wishes to be treated with the respect of an adult and when she is ignored she lashes out in the worst way possible. The competition continues between the sisters in both love and patronage by wealthy Aunt March.

 

5) Meg and Mr Brook

Meg is the actor of the family but unlike Jo or Amy, she lacks any artistic aspirations. She only asks for a loving husband and family and she certainly finds a loving husband in John Brook. I’ve always loved the bit in Little Women where Mr Brook steals Meg’s glove and keeps it to himself. Alcott keeps Meg and Mr Brook’s relationship very real, by showing how money and the lack of it, can place strain on the strongest bonds of love.

 

6) Aunt March and Jo

Cantankerous Aunt March and Jo share a curious relationship. Aunt March uses her money and all the power that comes with it, to buy companionship. She is an extremely lonely old woman but at heart she shows a secret disposition to improve the fortunes of her poor relatives and promote the artistic talents of Jo and Amy. Revengeful in nature, she chooses Amy as a companion on her European travels but in the end bequeaths her house and wealth to Jo.

 

7) Marmie and Her Girls

Marmie, Hannah and her four girls share the loveliest bond of love. I always think of Laurie looking wistfully in, from the outside on the festivities of the March household before he befriended them and being envious. Who wouldn’t be envious of such love and friendship?

 

9) The Love Between Laurie and Amy

When I was a young girl, I could never understand the love between Laurie and Amy and always found it blasphemous that Laurie should so easily transfer his love to another of the March sisters. As I’ve grown older I’ve come to realize that a marriage between two hot-headed individuals is an undesirable thing. So you might say, even though I don’t understand Laurie and Amy’s connection I’ve learnt to accept it.

 

10) The Love Between Jo and Prof. Bhaer

Here is another relationship that I think I’ve learnt to accept and understand as I’ve grown older. Jo and the philosophical professor share a love for literature and have much in common. Whereas Jo is hot-headed, the Professor is wise and practical. Not the most exciting relationship but one that perhaps endures.

 

11) The Love Between Jo and Her Father

The worry for their father, his health and involvement in the war always lingers in the background of Little Women. When he falls sick and Marmie and Mr Brook rush to nurse him, Jo sacrifices her ‘one, true beauty’ – her magnificent hair – in order to scrounge up money for the trip. Later she cries for the loss of her hair, but her sacrifice shows just how much she loves her father.

 

12) The Love That Jo Has for Writing

Lastly, we come to the most inspiring love of all – the love that Jo has for writing. Many of us who like to read, have a love for writing too. And Jo March’s example of writing her first book is very inspiring and I’m sure has motivated many generations of aspiring authors.

 

Is ‘Little Women’ a favourite read? Which example of love, do you love the most?

Diary of the Ordinary Happenings of a Kolkatan Lady – January 2020

 

My January Diary

January was a month of new beginnings. On the work front I had new things to learn and new projects to embark on and they kept me very (pleasantly) busy. I was also craving good book discussions and participated in two readalongs on Instagram. One – was ‘A Winter Away’ by Elizabeth Fair. I read this with a close group of friends and the book was light and it was amusing to share excerpts and peculiarities of character, whilst reading.

The second book I read with the Elizabeth Goudge Book Club on Instagram – ‘A City of Bells’. I had this beautiful first edition sitting on my bookshelf – just crying out to be read. I enjoyed this book so much.

We had two birthdays in the family – my daughter’s and my Mum’s. I bought Amitava Ghosh’s ‘Gun Island’ for my mum because she is a huge fan.

Mid-January, the husband and I had four nights of attending Dover Lane Music Conference – an Indian classical musical soirée in Kolkata. Two nights, we stayed up all night and walked home as the sky was turning pink at dawn. There is nothing so uplifting as music and is so needed to lift one’s spirits. I’ll think of the good music I listened to and it will make me happy when I remember it throughout the remainder of the year.

The weather has been unseasonably cold in Kolkata. That, and perhaps the new flat is rather chilly! Whatever the reason – I finally caved and bought a space heater. We celebrated Republic Day with Subway Chicken Tikka sandwiches and Dutch chocolate ice-cream. There was a holiday deal. Sandwiches are the highpoint of our (Meli and my) fast-food life!

Meli spent most of January practicing for Sports Day at her school. She is reading aloud ‘Little House on the Prairie’ to her grandmother, who is visiting at the moment.

I hope you all had a good start to the New Year.

 

This is my month in review :

The Books I read in January

A City of Bells - Elizabeth Goudge

1) ‘A City of Bells’ by Elizabeth Goudge

I read ‘A City of Bells’ with the Elizabeth Goudge Book Club on Instagram. The lady who hosts the readalong accompanies the books with wonderful images taken from the scenes of the book… in this case the city of Wells, England. This definitely helps to make the book come alive.

’A City of Bells’ was such a charming book. Very well written, a nice plot that was engaging to the last and a host of very endearing characters. And the best of all! The story contained a quaint little bookshop. How can a bibliophile not love a book with a bookstore in it? More on the book later… as I hope to review it in depth.

2) ‘The Prime Minister’ by Anthony Trollope

I’ve been listening to Trollope’s ‘The Prime Minister’ on audible for a few months now. I finally managed to finish the book in January and enjoyed it overall. I think the fact that the central character had a very dislikeable personality deterred me from listening to the book. Sometimes, his vices and personality got too much for me. The book is the fourth in Trollope’s famous ‘Palliser Chronicles’. The most important themes in the book were politics and a greed to make easy money.

3) ‘A Winter Away’ by Elizabeth Fair

Elizabeth Fair - A Winter Away

 

4) ‘The New Chalet School’ by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer

I read ‘The New Chalet School’ in an Armada paperback version and it is abruptly cut short at the end. I will have to search for the next Armada book ‘A United Chalet School’ where the story continues to satisfactorily resolve the story. Next month I will pick the most momentous book in the series – ‘The Chalet School in Exile’ and I have an unabridged Girls Gone By Publishing edition that contains the missing chapters of the Armada editions. As ‘Exile’ is my favourite book in the series, I am VERY excited to proceed.

 

Mixed Media in January

I didn’t watch much television at all in January but did manage to watch a few episodes of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix. Particularly haunting, was the tragedy that befalls a Welsh mining town. Meli and my Mum are re watching episodes of ‘Anne with an E’. I hope to catch up with the newly released third season soon.

I was ever so hopeful that the ‘Little Women’ movie would come to theatres in Kolkata but it hasn’t and I’m still hopeful and waiting!…

Meli and I have discovered Maroon Five’s ‘Memories’. Quite distressingly, Meli has also picked up the lyrics which might not be the most appropriate for an eight year old …

I listened to the Slightly Foxed podcast. Episodes that I enjoyed included Episode 13 (Nature and Story) and Episode 14 (The Vital Spark). The latter was a very engrossing discussion on what sparks a lifelong love of reading. This is a topic very much after my own heart as I take great efforts to encourage Meli to read.

The husband and I spent four very lovely evenings (and in two instances whole nights) at the 68th Dover Lane Music Conference in Kolkata. It’s an Indian classical music conference held every year in our city and I attended the event after many years. My favourites were a Double Violin recital by L Shenkar and a vocal recital from Ustad Rashid Khan.

 

What I Made in January

Noel Streatfeild - Laura Ingalls Wilder

I made a delicious chocolate banana almond bread in January. Although we enjoyed it, I still found it on the dry side and will be tweaking the recipe further.

I also baked a chocolate layer cake with coffee chocolate icing for Meli’s birthday. It was delicious and not too heavy on the icing at all, which we like. Meli loves to have Cadbury Gems (or M&M’s/ Smarties) spell out the birthday number on the cake. I’ve been doing this since she was a small child and she loves the tradition.

I’ve been making and drinking a lot of cardamom milk tea this January. I find it very soothing to drink during the colder months. Simply boil pierced cardamom pods in water, add strong black tea and gently simmer for about 5 mins on the stove top. Add milk and sugar to taste and then serve.

 

What I Bought or Received in January

January Book Haul - Laura Ingalls Wilder- Enid Blyton

I purchased books for the 8 year old’s birthday, because as she says herself – books make the best presents. The books I gave her were Noel Streatfeild’s ‘Holiday Stories’. I was a bit naughty in that I wanted this beautiful book for myself but I managed to convince my daughter that she would enjoy it too when I mentioned that one of the stories was labeled ‘Chicken for Supper’. As my daughter loves to eat chicken and food in general, she didn’t need much convincing after that! The second book we gave her for her birthday was a Full Colour Edition of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘By The Shores of Silver Lake’. There was also another old book find – to add to the Famous Five collection. She also received a splendid illustrated edition of ‘The Goblet of Fire’ by J.K. Rowling from a generous uncle.

Books I bought for myself included a second hand copy of E.H. Young’s ‘William’ and two Girls Gone By Publishing stories – ‘Highland Holiday’ by Jane Shaw and ‘Refuge for the Chalet School’ by Amy Fletcher.

 

Posts I Published in January

Milton Place - Elisabeth de Waal - Persephone Books

I regained my blogging mojo in January and published a few posts that I’ve listed below:

6 Tips to Overcome the Post-Christmas Blues

The Faded Glory of the Old English Country House: Milton Place by Elisabeth de Waal

Best Books of 2019

The Highpoint of the Month

Brown paper packages

I received a wondrous package from two dear Instagram friends – Kathy (kstarnes on Instagram) and Shelbi (the nobbylife on Instagram). I spent a whole afternoon opening the parcel and enjoying its contents while sipping on a cup of tea. The wrapping was so pretty that I had to take a flat-lay photograph to share. The books are highly coveted vintage editions of O. Douglas – out of print and hard to find. I love them so much. I feel very grateful to have such considerate friends.

O Douglas - The Setons - Priorsford

Favourite Book Excerpt of the Month

“I think it will last,” said Grandfather. “In my experience when people once begin to read they go on. They begin because they think they ought to and they go on because they must. Yes. They find it widens life. We’re all greedy for life, you know, and our short span of existence can’t give us all that we hunger for, the time is too short and our capacity not large enough. But in books we experience all life vicariously.”

~ ‘A City of Bells’ by Elizabeth Goudge