An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Polly finds out she’s not quite like other girls when she goes to visit her cousins in the city. It may lead to some awkward situations, but perhaps Polly’s differentness will prove not to be such a bad thing in An Old-Fashioned Girl, a coming of age novel by Louisa May Alcott.

Okay, so I’ll confess right out the gate that Alcott’s admission at the beginning of the last chapter ruined the end of the book for me. But as I came to like the characters so much, I can forgive how their creator deals with them in the end.

I enjoyed much of this book’s wording. How the characters speak, and how the author speaks about them, is what most makes these folks a pleasure. On the whole, I like Polly and Tom the best as children. Their dance at the party in Chapter 7 is…well, it’s just flat out cute.

The music struck up, and away they went, Tom hopping one way and Polly the other, in a most ungraceful manner.

“Keep time to the music,” gasped Polly.

“Can’t. Never could,” returned Tom.

“Keep step with me, then, and don’t tread on my toes,” pleaded Polly.

“Never mind. Keep bobbing, and we’ll come right by and by,” muttered Tom, giving his unfortunate partner a sudden whisk, which nearly landed both on the floor.

But they did not “get right by and by”; for Tom, in his frantic efforts to do his duty, nearly annihilated poor Polly. He tramped, he bobbed, he skated, he twirled her to the right, dragged her to the left…

Too many perfectly worded parts and tidbits to name. There’s Polly’s evening of flirtation as a young woman at the opera, the “bitter smile” on her face at the end of it, Tom bending to ask her, “Are you tired, Polly?” to which she answers, “Yes, of being nobody.” There’s Fanny’s observation of Maud that she directs at Polly, saying, “Blessed innocence! Don’t you wish you were a child, and dared tell what you want?”

A rather delightful and old-fashioned read from the author of Little Women.

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The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Edith, an impoverished orphan in the bloom of young womanhood, wins the favor of her wealthy friends (and the love of noble Lord Percy) with her kindness and gentle spirit. But when an envious rival, Lady Ida, schemes to rob Edith of her position, Edith may be forced to reveal the secret hidden in her locket in The Inheritance, a novel by author Louisa May Alcott.

Ah. One of those rare instances when I like a story’s movie better than its book.

That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy reading this, hence two stars instead of one. Over the top in its drama, in an almost Shakespearean fashion, this little work of fiction leaves nothing to subtlety or nuance, penned by an obviously unseasoned hand. “Gay,” “noble,” and other forms of the two words, along with a handful of other oft-repeated terms, appear on practically every page, sometimes several times a page, and the heroine is sweetly perfect to the point of becoming something of a nuisance to read about.

Still, though, knowing that this was Alcott’s first novel, which she did not publish, I didn’t plan on taking it too seriously, and about as much as I enjoy reading Shakespeare, I enjoyed this–as a quick, in between, taking-a-break kind of read with an “old-fashionedness” that I am partial to in literature.

I’m happy to know that Alcott did get better, after this.

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Here’s the intro to the 1997 television movie I like so much. Horses are an important part of the story, mind you. 😉

Little Women (1994)

Film reviews are subjective. I tend to rate films not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Little Women

Little Women (1994) from Columbia Pictures
Rated PG. Drama, Period Film, Romance, Family Film

Five Gold Stars

Description (from the film case): With her husband off at war, Marmee (Susan Sarandon) is left alone to raise their four daughters–her “little women.” There is the spirited Jo (Winona Ryder), conservative Meg (Trini Alvarado), fragile Beth (Claire Danes), and romantic Amy (played at different ages by Kirsten Dunst and Samantha Mathis.) As the years pass, the sisters share some of the most cherished and painful memories of self-discovery.

My thoughts (maybe a little spoiler-ish if you’ve not seen one of the movies or read the book): The cast, the costumes, the score–all a triumph. It takes genius for a film less than two hours long to make a viewer feel like she’s really lived all those years with the characters. No, I’ll never be totally reconciled to Laurie’s “switch over” from one little March woman to another (a deliberate and, I think, stubborn choice on Louisa May Alcott’s part), but, strangely, it doesn’t make me love the story less.

One of those rare occasions when I saw a film before reading the book it’s based on, and an even rarer occasion when I love the film and the book equally, despite their differences. And that’s saying something, since Alcott’s novel is one of my all-time favorite reads.

My corresponding reading: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

classic-books-3 nadine keels

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
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Five Gold Stars

LittleWomen.qx5.EGLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

A joy to finally read, after seeing the 1933 and (the best) 1994 versions of the movie several times. I ate it up, cover to cover. I’m glad the novel gives more about the sisters’ lives after their marriages than either of the movies do, and while the families are clearly happy, Alcott does not tie up the conclusion with a perfect “not-a-care-in-the-world-and-happily-ever-after” bow. So disappointing to confirm how much the Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel film copied directly from Little Women, as far as Jo/Laurie and Anne/Gilbert are concerned, but that’s not Little Women’s fault, and though I may never be fully reconciled to the way Laurie “switches over” to Amy, I’m still fond of the story in spite of it.

Jo’s poem to Beth, toward the end, is one of the most moving pieces of the novel, as are Beth’s words to Jo, at the sea: “Jo dear, I’m glad you know it. I’ve tried to tell you, but I couldn’t.” Beth, in all of her virtue, is still portrayed as human: a dying, nineteen-year-old girl wondering if her short life has truly amounted to anything. One of my main questions going in was whether or not Alcott would make Beth a flawless, otherworldly angel, and I’m pleased that Alcott doesn’t.

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Indeed, the 1994 film version by Columbia Pictures with Winona Ryder in her Oscar-nominated role as Jo (and a fantastic musical score by Thomas Newman) is the best film version of Little Women, but the 1933 release with Katharine Hepburn has its own “old movie” charm.