Saturday, August 1, 2009

Little Women Part 1: Background

I will no doubt be writing more than one entry about how I've connected with Louisa Mae Alcott and Little Women through my life thus far. Little Women was one of my favorite books from around the age of twelve. I was introduced to this classic when my mother and father bought it for me for Christmas. That copy is long gone from overuse which isn't a bad thing, although it would be nice to have. I've owned several. I still own probably two or three different copies. First editions are nearly nonexistent and difficult to prove because copyrighting wasn't done in the same way. If I ran onto one that was a first printing or close to it, it would no doubt cost thousands of dollars.

I don't know what any of my readers may already know of Louisa and her family, but her father was a transcendentalist and they lived in Concord, Massachusetts. Orchard House is still there, is a museum, and I will visit one day. Their contemporaries were Emerson and Thoreau. If I could get one of those grants Lilly gives to teachers, I'd love to go there and study; maybe research how their lives crossed in light of the history of the time and whatnot if it hasn't already been done. Louisa's father wasn't financially successful apparently, spending most of his time studying and living his philosophy. Little Women doesn't really go into that part of their lives in great detail, but the book is very autobiographical. Everyone knows Jo is Louisa, and Louisa also had three sisters (Meg, Beth, and Amy in the book...not their real names).

Louisa was a writer already and when her publishers, Little Brown & Company, asked her to write a story for girls, she didn't want to do it. I'm glad she did. There are other books about the March family (Little Men, Jo's Boys) but they didn't capture me in the same way. She also wrote a lot of other things. Many I have yet to read, but am determined to do so. I believe she wrote the book in a relatively short period of time, sent it in, and it became an immediate success.

Like Jo in the story, Louisa wrote a lot of dramatic, mysterious types of stories, which weren't nearly the literary quality of the March family stories, and the book ends with....well, if you haven't read it, you should. I've lost count of how many times I've read it. I particularly like to pull it out around Christmas because the opening of the story takes place at Christmas with I think one of the best opening lines I've ever read, "'Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,' grumbled Jo, lying on the rug." I suppose that is only because it holds so much meaning for me. Watch for more posts in the near future including how I experienced the book as a youngster, the movie versions, and more.

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