Love and Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’

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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?

September 2015 Favourites : Books, Audiobooks, Bookish Blogposts, Movies, Library Hauls and Much More.

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September 2015 was a slow but good month for new books, audiobooks and movies. It took a little time getting into our normal routine after our month long trip to India. Here is a round up of my September (and a little bit of August) favourites …

In the month of August the only two books I had read from my Holiday Reading List were coincidentally Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim (a fantastic read) and Tempestuous April by Betty Neels.  Both of them contained April in the title but here the similarity end. I will leave you to arrive at your own conclusions…

Enchanted April is the perfect read for a summer vacation and found it into my September blogpost that lists Eight Books that Remind Me of Summer. Set in Portofino, Italy, Enchanted April tells of a sort of ‘re-birth’ of four different women who travel to Italy to spend time in a rented medieval castle, to find solace in the beautiful surroundings.

In September we frequently visited our library.

Little M and I are continuing to read from the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. Two books on this list are Tuesday by David Wiesner and Owl Moon by Jane Yolen.

Tuesday is more of a picture book with terrific illustrations. It tells the tale of a series of animal invasions that strike at a particular time and place, namely Tuesday evening at around eight o’clock in a small suburb. Frogs invade the skies in hundreds of thousands, flying along on lilypad aircraft. They invade backyards, dark sitting rooms where people are dozing off in front of the television. Neither the press nor the police know what to make of it the day after, when the town is strewn with abandoned lilypads. All is well until next Tuesday at the same time… when a shadow of a flying pig is seen eerily set against a barn door…

Owl Moon is another wonderfully atmospheric book. It tells the story of a young child setting out on her very first owling expedition with her father. The night sky glows with the golden glow of a full moon- the best time to view an owl in the deep, snow laden woods. It is a tale of patience and forbearance, excitement and anticipation.

We are really enjoying all the books on the Time Magazine’s list of Top 100 Children’s Books. I cannot recommend them enough. Not on the list but of great entertainment value to Little M, is another installment of the Sofia the First entertainment series (she missed her a great deal whilst in India).

My reading in September was slow. I’ve started The Land Where Lemons Grow  by Helena Attlee which is a history of the introduction of citrus fruit in Italy. In great detail it researches how this fruit  has invaded the Italian imagination, from Calabria’s Diamante citrons, the blood oranges of Sicily, to the bergamot thriving on narrow strips of coastline. There is a bit of everything in this part history, part horticulture, sociopolitical culinary book offering.

I finished the latest installment in Alexander McCall Smith’s Edinburgh series featuring philosopher Isabel Dalhousie called ‘The Novel Habits of Happiness’. As usual the book has a little bit of everything that I love, scenes from a Scottish city, romance, a light mystery, memorable characters and very large doses of reflection. It is the first book I reach for when I come back from our holiday.

Another book that I have started is a ‘cozy’ post-WW1 mystery set in Leeds called ‘Dying in the Wool‘ by Frances Brody. Speaking of mysteries, September marked the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dame Agatha Christie which I celebrated with my blogpost ‘An Ode to Agatha Christie: Celebrating Her 125th Birth Anniversary with Eight Memorable Books’.

I bought an audiobook from Audible in September called ‘In and Out of the Kitchen’ by Miles Jupp and cannot recommend it enough. It is a BBC 4 radio drama about a ‘cookery writer’ Damien Trench and his writing and domestic struggles.The writing is so very funny in a wry sort of way… really enjoying it.

As the mother of a 3 year old I find it impossible to visit the cinema nowadays and watch ‘non-princess themed’ movies. One of the bonuses of the Emirates flights to and from India was the excellent selection of current movies . On the way to India I watched ‘Far From the Madding Crowd’ which I loved and has inspired me to give this favourite Hardy a re-read. On the way back to the US, I was lucky enough to watch the dramatized version of Vera Brittain’s poignant WW1 memoir ‘Testament of Youth’ which was epic. I cannot recommend these two movies enough.

Lastly, the whole family watched not one but two dramatized versions of C.S. Lewis’s classic -The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe… and Aslan made it into my art journal.

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Hope you had a wonderful September. See you in October xxx.

‘We’re of to see the Lizard, the wonderful Lizard of Oz’ and a Library Haul from Week 23 of 2015

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I never grew up watching the Wizard of Oz although I did read the book or its abridged version at least. Neither do I recall watching many of the popular Disney movies. This just may be my poor memory. I was always more interested in reading books….deriving a first-hand experience of a story…figuring out the dramatization in my imagination rather than have it delivered to me by an on-screen production.

The first decade or so of my life was spent in England during the 1980s.  I recall watching cartoons on television. The old fashioned ones with a mouse and a cat. Inspector Gadget… Scooby Doo…Fraggle Rock… Postman Pat…the Muppet Show. Basically we watched whatever was shown on television. Somehow, Dorothy, the Emerald City and the sparkling red shoes escaped my attention.

Still despite this fact, it is hard not to be aware of the story… The Wizard of Oz, the book and the movie have forever sparked the popular imagination.

When you have children you are allowed to live a second childhood of sorts. You are permitted to watch all the movies you missed as a child… to indulge your adult curiosity with childlike fancies. To pretend that you have ordered the Wizard of Oz to ‘educate’ your child when you want to watch it yourself with undiluted attention and evaluate it as an adult.

The Wizard of Oz unfailingly delivers. There is something very captivating about the story. Despite not being as visually stunning as the modern productions, the songs, the story, the unique characters created by L. Frank Baum make this a movie worthy of re-watching.

We will definitely not forget this movie especially as my three year old has created a memorable spin-off of the title tune , quite unintentionally…

We’re off to see the lizard, the wonderful lizard of Oz

She will thank me later for posting this on the Internet  I think!

Also pictured in the library haul:

1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die: this is a lovely coffee table book to leaf through. Mostly filled with beautiful snapshots of enviable gardens.

Watercolor Landscapes: this book is an excellent primer, teaching you how to convert a very ordinary natural landscape to a beautiful watercolor. The trick mostly lies in visually editing out unnecessary elements that do not add to the romantic appeal of a scene. Like signposts, electric cables, rundown cars by the wayside etcetera.

50 Shades of Grey: the less said about this the better. I wish I had spent those two hours doing something else…

The Theory of Everything: haven’t watched this one yet but can’t wait to see it.

Goodnight Moon: This may be the second or third time we have borrowed this from the library. I love the visual effects in this story. How the depicted bedroom and its interiors transition from light… to dark…to sleep and inaction.

Have a happy week dear readers. Can’t wait to do some reading this weekend.

Week Nineteen 2015- A Library Haul and Other Musings

FullSizeRender-2Week Nineteen was packed full of events and books. We celebrated multiple birthdays in our small family and there was lots of cake and good food. I made a pasta drenched in lemons, olive oil, thyme, parsley, garlic and with Italian sausage and red peppers. It was based on a recipe from Laura Vitale who is a great favorite in our household. Our chocolate birthday cake had pastel colored  tiny sugary confetti on it that Little M called ‘little M and M’s’.

On Mother’s Day we visited Old Sturbridge Village (OSV) located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, which is an outdoor historical museum showcasing some authentic period houses that have been moved from their original locations to OSV. Actors dress up in period costume and tell stories of their past. We badgered them with numerous questions, especially in the  village store selling merchandise of all kinds. Being particularly interested in the stationery and art supplies of the day I was fascinated to find an old watercolor set which would have been popular- perhaps with young ladies painting botanical illustration. Here it is. Isn’t it beautiful?

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Back to the Library Haul. Little M enjoyed Fraggle Rock recently. I decided to pick up the Complete Season 1 of Fraggle Rock along with a book. The book is more like a comic strip and a little too advanced for Little M. Nevertheless she is having a good time looking at the pictures.

Recently I enjoyed re-reading the Darling Buds of May by HE Bates. I decided to pick up the dramatization of the various books. It features stellar performances from the inimitable David Jason as Pop Larkin, Pam Ferris as Ma Larkin and a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones as Mariette.

I had requested a vintage crime novel  from the library by John Dickson Carr called the Mad Hatter Mystery. It came in this ancient omnibus edition. Looking forward to my first book by this acclaimed master of the locked room mystery.

Lastly, Emma: A Modern Retelling was lying on the new book shelves at the library. I have too many books to finish at the moment but I could not resist picking this up. McCall Smith is one of my favorite modern day writers. I wonder what he will do with Austen’s masterpiece?

I leave you with some pictures of Old Sturbridge Village and an entry in my art journal.  See you next week!IMG_0807IMG_0733IMG_0738FullSizeRender-3