Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about seeing a movie than I was this year when I watched the Little Women trailer. The moment I saw that it starred Saorse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Laura Dern, Emma Watson and Meryl Streep, I knew right away it would become one of my favourite movies. Of course, I quickly ordered a copy of the book so I could read it before the movie came out. I didn’t know a lot about the story, other than it’s a literary classic and that it centers around four sisters.

I like good strong words that mean something…” 

Now, since English isn’t my first language, I often find classics hard to read. I’ve yet to come across a classic I’ve truly loved and enjoyed from beginning to end. Unfortunately, I can’t say Little Women broke that curse for me. I didn’t find it as engaging as I thought it would be. But, I also think I would have enjoyed it more at a younger age. Each chapter exposes a problem or a behavior (vanity, jealousy, boastfulness…) that is then solved or corrected in that same chapter. It felt very repetitive: X girl exhibits a behaviour that gets her into trouble, she then apologizes, corrects her behavior and swears she’ll do better, etc. I can understand why it would be appropriate for a younger girl who could feel invested in the girls’ stories and problems, but I often found it trivial and unoriginal.

Fortunately, Jo and Laurie’s characterization saved this story for me. Their friendship and character evolution felt believable and was pretty much the only things that kept me interested. Of course, (spoiler alert) I was very destabilized by the ending. I couldn’t believe that Jo would end up marrying a character as uninteresting as Pr. Boher, especially since she spent the whole book saying she didn’t want to get married – like ever! I know many readers would’ve have preferred her to marry Laurie instead, but I honestly though she would end up alone (but still happy and successful). Thankfully, the movie saved the ending for me! (End of spoiler)

You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.” 

In the end, I was right. Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women is one of my favourite movies of all time. Her attention to details (Laurie and Jo’s clothes!) and her sensitivity make this story a modern and feminist journey to self acceptance and kinship. The characters felt so alive and real that I was able to completely forget the actors’ previous roles (sorry Elio, but Laurie’s my new fave). The relationships and affection between the sisters often brought me to tears. Greta made the March family come to life and it almost felt like I was in their living room with them instead of in a movie theater.

In all, I can’t say I fully enjoyed Little Women, which suffers the comparison to more modern feminist stories. But if, like me, you found the story too virtuous and old fashioned, please don’t let that stop you from watching the movie! I already know I’ll be watching it too many times in the following years.

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