“If you mean libel, I’d say so, and not talk about labels as if Papa was a pickle bottle,” advised Jo, laughing., — Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
The winter of ’77 was the coldest of my childhood, but my mother managed to bring a warm glow to my bedside every night, despite the three-foot thick ice on the roads outside, by making sure I was curled up, with my dog nearby, and a glass of water on the nightstand. Once I was snuggled beneath cool non-pilled sheets, she would read to me, turning the thin pages of the book softly, and doing all the voices.
This was my introduction to Jo March, and her sisters Meg, Beth and Amy, and though they may be fictional, they have been close friends ever since. Jo, of course, is who I wanted, not just to meet, but to BE. When I developed my own literary aspirations several years later, I found an old black velvet beret, stapled a red bow to it, and wore it as my writing cap, just like the cap SHE had in the book. When she refused to marry Laurie Laurence, I was outraged, the first time I read it. Re-reading the book for a class years after, I was still outraged, but this time it was because Jo was right and Laurie couldn’t see that. Apparently, love really is blind.
Little Women is often lumped in with lesser childrens fiction, but it’s really a special novel because its one of the first that depicts girls of that time period as real people, not just one-dimensional characters in skirts. It lets us see the child within the woman who emerges, and the woman within each girl. It shows us their playtime as well as their work, and represents a world that isn’t ideal, but is still home.
I now re-read it once a year, and each time, I get something new out of it.