I had been reading Little Women in bits and pieces over the summer but now I am fully immersing myself in it. Although I read some of it for school many years ago, I never finished it nor appreciated it. I actually decided to start it again when I began reading Kelly O’Connor McNees’ book, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott since she had mentioned it in the preface. I thought it would better enhance the reading of her book.
I admit to you that I have never understood why Little Women is so beloved. I found the writing style to be too sweet and sentimental; I just couldn’t relate to the characters. And I felt left out – I wanted to know what every other Little Women fan knew.
Thanks to my reading binge this summer of McNees’ book, Reisen’s book (Louisa May Alcott The Woman Behind Little Women) and Ticknor’s (May Alcott A Memoir), I decided I must immerse myself in Little Women for all the tidbits I could learn about the Alcott family.
And so I’ve been reading (and listening to the audio book too), and now I am entering into the world of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy.
Beth has always been the character I was drawn to, probably because of her premature death. I realize that there were many Beths in the 19th century, but I never could understand how someone like that could even survive in this harsh world.
Chapter 6 of Little Women, “Beth Finds the Palace Beautiful” is such a poignant chapter. The relationship that develops between Mr. Laurence and Beth is so touching. I listened to the audio book yesterday and it brought tears to my eyes. Poignancy is one of Louisa’s true strong points as a writer. She really knows how to make a beeline to the heart of the reader. I could so feel Beth’s longing to play the grand piano, her struggle to overcome her shyness and fear, and her excitement at the offer to come over and play Mr. Laurence’s piano anytime she wanted (in secret as she desired). Her joy, excitement and gratitude was palpable when she received Mr. Laurence’s gift – the piano that belonged to the late granddaughter that she reminded him of. I could see so clearly in my mind that lovely scene of her sitting in his lap, giving him a kiss, and the healing it brought him to hold her close.
I find Beth’s care of her invalid dolls to be very touching as well. It’s good to get to know Louisa’s “shadow sister” Lizzie through this character.
It amazes me how Louisa could churn this book out from a sense of obligation to her publisher as there is so much heart in its pages. Amazing. I can’t wait to read more and I just wish I hadn’t waited so long!