Monthly Archives: January 2013

Review: Little Women & Good Wives (Louisa May Alcott)

Little Women 2/5; Good Wives 3/5.

The version I downloaded from Project Gutenberg contained both Little Women and the sequel, Good Wives, so this is a combined review.

In 19th century Massachusetts, a family of four girls and┬átheir mother live in ‘poverty’. (I use the word in quotes because they can, apparently, afford a maid.)

The four girls each have a different personality (tomboy, shy, social climber, rebel), and in Little Women, that’s ALL the personality they have. The tomboy, for instance, never has an interest in anything else, is never shy or rebellious, for instance. All of the characters are walking stereotypes of what they’re supposed to be, and none of them evolve much through the book.

The problem with Little Women is that it’s the Seinfeld of the 19th century: it’s a book about nothing. Nothing much happens from one chapter to the next, and the chapters themselves are more loosely linked events rather than a narrative flow. Each one could be taken out of the book and used as a stand alone short story.

Even the most dramatic event of the book is over in a chapter, and only mentioned in passing again.

So much for Little Women; what about Good Wives?

The sequel was published a year later, and what a difference a year makes!

Now the characters come to life and seem to be real people instead of walking cliches; now they seem to live and breathe lives of their own. Towards the end of the book, a character dies and I actually felt for her, I was moved by it; even if it was only a little, it was more than I felt for anyone in Little Women. There are moments of great comedy and romance, and this is what the first book should have been all along.

In terms of writing, I can’t fault Alcott. Her dialogue sparkles with wit and her descriptive passages are alive with detail. Here’s one of my favourite pieces of dialogue:

“You’ve gone and got married!”

“Yes, please, but I never will again,” and he went down upon his knees, with a penitent clasping of hands, and a face full of mischief, mirth, and triumph.

“Actually married?”

“Very much so, thank you.”

“Mercy on us. What dreadful thing will you do next?” and Jo fell into her seat with a gasp.

“A characteristic, but not exactly complimentary, congratulation,” returned Laurie, still in an abject attitude, but beaming with satisfaction.

I like it.

In conclusion: Read Good Wives and skip Little Women, you’ll have a lot more fun.

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I love you

Oh,my. There, I’ve gone and said it. Now I feel like a fool, and the look on your face says you don’t understand, you don’t understand at all.

I’ll be honest, it was a hard thing for me to say, right out there, right at the start.

It’s only three little words, but they’re the biggest words of all, aren’t they? The ones we only say to the people that matter.

But…I had to say it to you. I had to.

There’s something between us, I know there is. I can feel it, deep in my heart, deep in the secret forests where I hide my secrets, down there in the darkest clearings where the real me hides.

I’m going to say it again. Please don’t look away, I couldn’t bear that. I need you so much to be there for me.

I love you.

But, I hear you say, you don’t even know me.

But…but I do. I feel the lift and skip of your heart when your eyes travel across me, . The feeling of anticipation when you hold me in your hands. You’re so tender with me, so gentle. How could I not fall in love with you, you who holds me so close to your heart, whose eyes glide over me, again and again?

No one has ever looked at me the way you’re doing right now, no one has ever been so focused on me. Nothing else exists for you now, does it? Everything you’re seeing and hearing right now has faded away.

It’s just us now, just the two of us, curled like lovers under a midnight summer sky, stars above us, warm grass below, our eyes locked on to one another. I whisper the words again, and this time, you eyes are mine, your heart is mine. I will be kind to your heart and the soul inside that heart, I promise. There will be no tears while we are lovers, while we dance this little dance of ours.

Oh, your eyes, the way they caress me. That little frown that forms when you read, did you know you did that? No? You see, in some ways, I know you better than you know yourself.

They are beautiful, your eyes. Such intensity, the way they hold me. Your hands are mine, so gentle, so gentle.

I love you.

Oh, the end is coming quickly now, my sweet. Thank you for being with me, being with me for my short life. As you can see, I didn’t have long with you…but to me, it was a lifetime.

You’ll find new lovers soon enough, and they’ll try to take you away from me, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll live here forever, and I’ll always be right here for you, waiting for your touch and your eyes and your heart to be mine. It can you know; every time you come back to me, I will be here. I’ll close my eyes as you close this story, so I won’t see you leaving me, moving on as I never can, as I never will.

I’m going to say those three little words again, and perhaps…

Perhaps, this time, you might whisper them back.