I wish I could have read Little Women when it first came out in 1868-69 and known what little girls experienced when reading this apparently revolutionary book. I’ve heard it said that Louisa May Alcott is the first J.K. Rowling because of the wild success of Little Women and its sequels.
I have two grown children: a son, 24 and a daughter, 22, and they both grew up with Harry Potter. They’d wait breathlessly for the next book to come out and it was always a long wait to them. Sometimes we’d pre-order it from Amazon and one time we actually went to the bookstore and waited for it to come out at midnight. My son would read it first since he read like the wind and could finish it overnight. He also was discreet and wouldn’t give anything away.
I was late getting on board and spent one summer reading the first three books and the second summer reading the second three. Those two summers were glorious! It had been many, many years since I had found fiction that I liked so well and I didn’t think I could ever again. The characters in Harry Potter were so rich and Rowling had a genuine understanding of adolescents that was astonishing considering the fact that her children were still quite young. The growth that Harry and his friends went through paralleled my own children’s growth. And my son was very much like Harry, and looked like him too!
I was caught up by the time the seventh book was to be published so I waited impatiently like everyone else and understood finally why this was such a phenomenon. When Book 7 arrived, my son read it first, and then my daughter and I shared it. I was slow to finish and she kept pestering me, saying, “Finish the book, I’m dying to talk about it!” The book was so intense that I had to take it in stages. It was an amazing read.
Now here I am, several summers later (and into fall), engrossed in a timeless piece of fiction. Never thinking I could get that engrossed again, I am just as involved in Little Women as I was in the Harry Potter series. But I’ll never know that experience that the first readers encountered. I can only guess it like what my children went through with Harry Potter.
I often tell them how lucky they were to be the first generation to read Harry Potter, because no child will ever appreciate it like that first generation did.
We have the advantage of a renewed interest in Little Women and the critical analysis that has come forth (I am eating up this Norton Critical edition!), plus the autobiographical nature of Little Women which can lead the reader into the life of the author.
I’m so glad I can have the Harry Potter experience again, although it is different this time. But it’s just as glorious!