Little Women (Puffin Classics)

by Louisa May Alcott

Paperback, 1995



Call number

PB Alc, Fic Alc

Call number

PB Alc, Fic Alc

Local notes

PB Alc


Puffin (1995), Paperback, 336 pages


Chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

Original publication date

1869 (vol. 2)
1868 (vol. 1)

Physical description

336 p.; 5.5 x 0.5 inches


0140366687 / 9780140366686



User reviews

LibraryThing member bookworm12
From the very first sentences of Little Women we know the four daughters in the March family: the eldest, Meg, tomboy Jo, gentle Beth and vain Amy. Soon we meet their kind mother, Marmee and from those first moments the reader is part of the family.

Set during the Civil War the March family is left with no men in their household when the father is sent off to war. The remaining house full of women is left to manage on their own.

I first read this when I was in grade school and I was thrilled to discover the character of Jo. She was a stubborn tomboy who longed to be an author and on the very first page she's described as "Jo, who was a bookworm." It was me in every way. Jo was the antidote to every sugary sweet character tossed my way in other books. She wasn't a lady, but she was strong and loving and she was willing to sacrifice anything for the good of her family.

The other characters, their neighbor Laurie, their selfish Aunt March, etc. are engraved in my mind forever. I longed to be there, in their world, acting out the Pickwick Portfolio with them in the attic.

Alcott wrote about intimate family dynamics in a time when little was known about women's interaction in the privacy of their own homes. The book was published in 1869, shortly after the end of the war. She created a family full of women with very different personalities, who must struggle through some horrible trials, but survive because their love for each other holds them together. It's a beautiful story that everyone should read.
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LibraryThing member atimco
Little Women, that classic tale of four very different sisters growing up in Massachusetts during the Civil War, is well known for its warmth, humor, and moral lessons. Louisa May Alcott, the "Jo" of the story, describes the life of the March family with an eye for the funny side of every situation. Jo is the literary sister and more than a little tomboyish, while Meg, the oldest, is almost a woman and takes her responsibilities very seriously. Beth, next youngest after Jo, is shy and gentle, playing her piano and tending her dolls. Amy, the youngest, has the artistic temperament and is a bit vain, though still lovable in her own way. And then there's Marmee, the center of the March household and the standard for moral behavior in her daughters' lives. There isn't much of a plot, as each chapter tells of some memorable episode in their family history.

I was struck this time by how similar my childhood was in some ways to that of the March girls. My siblings and I also "published" a newspaper of sorts and got up theatrical presentations for the delectation of our parents. We wrote stories, played with dolls, created elaborate make-believe games, and had a "post office" where treats were occasionally left. We read voraciously, were educated at home, never had much money, and learned early the strong work ethic that has been so valuable in adult life. I can even see some strong resemblances between Meg and myself (the oldest) and Jo and my next youngest sister, the undisputed tomboy of the family. We four sisters are as unique and distinct as the March girls. I guess happy childhoods share many of the same traits, regardless of how times change.

Many readers object to Alcott's occasional preachiness. I actually don't mind moral lessons carefully woven into a story, and I can take a great deal of what others may term "preaching" without annoyance. But I object to Alcott's preachiness on a different score. She preaches what she knew, the doctrines of the Transcendental movement that was then popular in their family's social circle. And it's astonishing what they got wrong. On the surface it seems like good moral stuff, and perhaps it is, as far as it goes. But Christ is absent—or if He is there, He's a friend and helper rather than a Savior. The slightest misdirection at the start will change the entire trajectory of a person's faith. It was almost sad to hear Alcott describing her and her family's struggles to be good, to subdue their sinful flesh and improve themselves by their own efforts and self discipline. They completely missed the point of grace; it isn't there to help us be good enough to be saved, but to save us completely, apart from any good we may do. There is freedom in that.

An example of this is the ongoing metaphor from John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, that of the burden that Christian carries to the Hill. There is no doubt that Bunyan intended Christian's burden to represent the burden of sin; it falls off when Christian beholds and believes in the Savior. But Alcott and her family apparently missed the entire point and interpreted Christian's burden as the general burdens of everyday life, our cares and responsibilities. Biblically astute Christians will see the problem at once: if our burden is our everyday life rather than our sin, that means we don't have a fatal problem that only Christ's sacrifice can alleviate. We are capable of perfecting ourselves.

Another contentious point is how Jo rejects Laurie and instead marries Professor Bhaer, a much older German man. I have always been dissatisfied with that, as much as I respect an author's authority over her own characters (and in this case, her own life!). This time I really tried to listen with an open mind and Alcott does a fair job of convincing me that she really did make the right decision. But it's still hard to read about Laurie's rejection and later marriage with Amy.

I have several of Alcott's "thrillers" that she disparages in this story, and it will be fascinating to see the other side of this author. The impression I get from the back-cover blurbs is that the author of the scandalous thrillers is the "real" Louisa May Alcott, while the author of the cozy Little Women and its successors is the public persona she created for herself. That seems a pretty huge assumption to make, but then, I haven't read any of the thrillers besides A Long Fatal Love Chase. I definitely need to make time for these in the coming year.

Lastly, a word on the film version with Winona Ryder. It's one of our favorites and though they had to condense and omit quite a bit from the novel, they were faithful to the spirit of the story. And Thomas Newman's lovely score doesn't hurt a bit, either. Of course they make the Professor (played by Gabriel Byrne) as palatable and handsome as possible, and that helps too. I wonder if they will ever make a longer version, perhaps a miniseries.

Overall I enjoyed this audiobook (read by the inimitable Kate Reading) very much, and I am sure I will revisit this book. The humor keeps the preachiness in balance, and the characters are so affectionately drawn by their author that I can't help but love them too.
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LibraryThing member lit_chick
2011, Listening Library, Read by Kate Reading

Somehow I missed reading this well-loved classic until now. When I spotted it recently in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (book nuts take note, the best-smelling book ever!), I went in search of an audiobook, and am delighted to have decided on this edition. Kate Reading is perfect as narrator.

I found it impossible not to be completely charmed by Alcott’s narrative of idyllic family life as the March sisters, Jo, Meg, Beth, and Amy, come of age under the gentle but firm guidance of their mother. Set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Little Women recalls a time when life was quiet and genteel, manners impeccable, morals intrinsic, and modesty fundamental. To Alcott’s credit, I found myself longing for a quieter, simpler time. That said, I was comforted (and much humoured) to know that some things have not changed at all:

“Amy’s lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterward. Men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don’t take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do. Then they act upon it, and if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it. If it fails, they generously give her the whole.” (Ch 41)

A worthy and deserving read. Highly recommended!
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LibraryThing member sva7
Although I consider Little Women one of my favorite books -- and certainly my favorite childhood book -- this is the first time I've actually finished the whole thing.

For a couple of reasons: One, that it still feels as though marrying off Laurie and Amy was a willfull move on the part of a writer unwilling to bend to the wishes of her young readers. And two, because I'd heard a rumor that Louisa May Alcott wrote this second half in a month, and the lack of care in "Good Wives" compared with "Little Women" shows.

It's still a great book, however touches of sexism and strange 19th century values make it a very different read than when I was younger, like the scene in which Mrs. March informs Meg that her husband going over to another woman's house for her "company" is Meg's fault, because she's too devoted to her children.

As for this edition in and of itself, it was great for highlighting and making notes while working on a paper, but I could tell that there were numerous typos in the edition, the pages are cheap and will probably fall apart in another couple of years, and the cover photo is ugly and sepia-toned. If you genuinely love the book, get a better version.
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LibraryThing member nikki_havey
(300/759) This book is about 4 girls who live with there mother and a slave. There father went off to be a soldier for the war. There family is middle class, so they can buy new things but they aren't rich like they use to be because their father was helping a friend and ended up losing a lot of their money. Later they found out there father is sick so their mother went to washington because their father was in one of the hospitals, then one of the sisters name Beth got scarlet fever. The main characters are Meg who is the oldest sister, she is discribed as beautiful and gets more beautiful with each passing day, she also loves elegant rich things. Joe the next oldest sister acts like a tome boy. Her one beauty was her hair until she cut it off to help her family get money for her mother to go to washington to help their father. Beth, the second to youngest is one of the kindest shyest people you would ever meet. Then the youngest is named Amy who loves to drawn and beautiful things. There mother Mrs. March is one of those mothers who you think is the greatest mother in the world. Then Hannah their slave is kind and an amazing nurse. I think Meg likes the material things of life too much, Joe has a short temper but I'm glad she is working to fix it. Beth has nothing wrong with her or that I think she should change about herself. if anything i think she should be more outgoing. Amy, I think she should be less selfish. I don't think i can relate to any of the things in this book, I mean so many things have changed since then, nothing is really the same. I think if anything I'm like Beth in shyness and Meg in liking elegant beautiful things. Actually so far I pretty much like everything, actually ya so far I like everything I have read. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes old victorian things, or old type of stories. For a movie I think all these parts would be hard to cast, I mean a beautiful elegant young lady, a tome boy, a shy kind girl, and one that is selfish yet loves drawing. I don't think anyone I could pick would be the right one to play the roles.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kaethe
I think maybe some of the value of this book is lost if one first reads it as an adult. I like it just fine, but I don't love it the way so many do, who re-read it a thousand times in childhood. Also, unlike virtually everyone else, I never liked Laurie all that much.


How awesome is it that my daughter can say, yesterday, that she'd like to read Little women, and when I discover we don't have a copy lying around I can download it to the Kindle and leave it there with her, as a little comfort on a sick day? It's really awesome, in case you were wondering.… (more)
LibraryThing member LibrarianRyan
OMG this book is SOOOOOOO boring. I can not believe that this is still a classic and how many times the movie has been remade. UGHHHHHH. I liked the Wynona Rider version of the movie. I thought Christian Bale Lurie was perfect. But the book, I thought it was never going to end.

I didn’t like Amy. I thought she was a brat in the movie and I still think the same thing according to this book. In the book I actually liked her ending up with Lurie. It felt fitting and a good match. And could see why her aunt wanted her to accompany her around the world.

Beth lasted longer in the book than in the movie. In the movie she dies of scarlet fever, but lasts years longer in the book. I did think the way she was described was interesting. In modern society, she would have a ton of initialed diagnoses after her name. High anxiety, etc.

There was so much more depth to the oldest march sister Meg. I don’t remember if it was in the movie that she had twins, or the deals she had with her husband upon marrying. I actually liked her much more in the book than I ever did in the movie. She has more depth.

As for Joe. Joe is the reason we have a book. But I wonder if this story was modernized if she wouldn’t be a “they” or “questioning” her gender and roles in society. But that comes from a modern mind reading a classic book. And I don’t make this point because of all the times they say “queer” used as it’s original definiation as odd or unusual. But it's when she is described as not being womanly, or not caring for the roles of women.

Overall I may not have enjoyed this book, but I did find it interesting. I know why I tried to read this book many times but never made it that far. And parts of me see why others like it, and why people use it for character studies. But for me, this will never be a book I recommend, but it will be a book I argue and debate.
+21 #TBRread
#BBRC #OriginalFreezerBook
#booked2019 #publicdomain
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LibraryThing member brittlandess
The book starts off with a talk between the girls, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy, and of how they wish for more things were that Christmas. It tells of the faults of each of the girls and how they are coping with their father fighting in the civil war. They decide to help their mother who gives them many lessons and advice throughout the book. They decide to bare their burdens for the sake of their mother and father and grow more knowledgeable about life. Their mother helps them by giving them each a book which helps them along during the story of their lives. Jo and Meg meet their neighbor officially when the two go to a party. When Jo tries to hide her burned dress by hiding behind a curtain, she bumps into Theodore Laurence, a shy boy nicknamed Laurie who becomes a good friend of the family thanks to Jo’s outgoing nature. Beth, the second youngest and kindest of the sisters, becomes good friends with Theodore’s grandfather due to her resemblance to Mr. Laurence’s granddaughter. The girls go through multiple burdens which help them and inspire them to fix their faults instead of ignoring them. They learn this getting into fights or hearing gossip, making them wish to improve themselves so that they may be better girls. As they go through these experiences, the girls and their mother receive a telegram which states that their father has gotten injured and must be attended to by their mother. In order to get money for their mother, Jo cuts her long hair and sells it for twenty-five dollars. After their mother leaves for Washington D.C., Beth catches scarlet fever. Amy is forced to move in with Aunt March while Beth is sick and learns to not be as selfish as she was. Beth ended up being sicker than most people expected, and this sickness affects her health for the rest of her life. Just as the girls send for their mother, against the will of Hannah the house keeper, Beth gets better and is visited by their mother not long after Beth is well. After this incident, it is found out that John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor, likes Meg who is unsure if she likes him. Jo speaks of this to their mother in secret, not wishing for Meg to know of this. As mischief is brought about by Laurie, Mr. March comes home and enjoys Christmas with the family. When Aunt March decides to visit the family, an argument with Meg leads to Meg deciding that once she is twenty, she will marry John who had proposed to her earlier that day. The second part of the book skips the years that Meg has to wait for her marriage and tell of what has happened during that time. Upon a visit to Aunt March’s house, it is decided that Amy will travel in Europe with Aunt March, leading to jealousy from Jo. As Amy leaves, Beth seems to be low in spirits and hiding a secret. Jo, believing that Beth is in love with Laurie, leaves for New York and works at a place with her mother’s friend. There she meets Professor Bhaer, a German man who was living there with his nephews. The two soon become great friends due to their interest in similar subjects. After returning from New York, Jo is proposed to by Laurie who, after being rejected by Jo, leaves for a stay in Europe with his grandfather. While Laurie is in Europe, he is changed by Jo’s rejection and, upon seeing Amy again, is surprised by how much when Amy says she despises him. While this happens, Jo learns of Beth’s secret. Because of this, Jo constantly stays by Beth’s side, not wishing to be away when Beth leaves. Beth tries her best to make use of the time left and eventually stops due to “the needle being too heavy.” After this in the spring, Beth dies. When this happens, it is decided that it will be kept a secret for a while so that Amy doesn’t cut her break short. Eventually, Laurie realizes that he doesn’t love Jo any more and, upon finding out about Beth’s death, goes to comfort Amy, eventually getting married to her when she believes that he has changed into a better man. After Laurie and Amy come back after their marriage, Professor Bhaer visits Jo, getting along with her so well to the point that they eventually get married in two years time and open a school for boys that need care, kindness, and teaching.
I found that the book reflects, though old, the fact that everyone has their faults and hardships in life. I believe that Louisa Alcott properly gave the girls each their own faults and personalities which made them each their own individual. They all had ideals and dreams which turned out differently than they had previously wish. I believe that this book properly shows how humanity is and how people are without knowing it sometimes. It is entertaining with a hint of the idea of it being a biography. It preserves the idea that no one is perfect and tells a story of how people are whether they admit to it or not. I loved Louisa Alcott’s characters and story because of its portrayal of life and its hardships.
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LibraryThing member rainbowdarling
A true classic, truly timeless, Little Women is a must have for any bookshelf. This story of a family of young women, dealing with the very real traumas of the Civil War is charming in that it gives pictures into the lives of the daughters, the things that concern them, please them, the trials they must face and the choices they are forced to make. The main character is endearing as are her three sisters and by the end I found myself rooting for the ultimate well-being of everyone involved, not simply the main character. I can't imagine not having this book around.… (more)
LibraryThing member theageofsilt
I bought this book at "The Orchard House" in Concord, Massachusetts where Louisa May Alcott lived while she wrote "Little Women". I didn't enjoy this book as a girl, but I appreciate it more now. It was a pleasure to read about young women who are more interested in developing their character than their appearance. The writing style is lively enough to carry the reader through plotlines that are credible to the point of banal. It is also a wonderful depiction of daily life of its time. It is also a feminist novel -- the home is the core of a woman's responsibility, but the home is also seen as absolutely crucial for society. Oddly, I think the denigration of the role of women in the world belongs to a later era.… (more)
LibraryThing member ysar
I originally received this book as a young teen, and I sat up in bed, reading by lamplight, long after I should have been asleep each night. A beatifully told story of four nearly-grwon sisters and their mother, this is a must read for any girl (or grown woman for that matter!). I have long since lost my original copy, but I loved it so much it has been replaced by no less than three more copies.
Having no sisters of my own, and not living with my mother, I had little in common with the family in the story. Perhaps that was what fascinated me. In any case, it's a touching story about four very different sisters, family life that isn't always easy, and in the end romance that is entirely appropriate for young readers. Louisa May Alcott captured a normal American family in such a way that the book is much loved a century later.
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LibraryThing member michael1990
I think this novel is very interesting and real to react some situations in our daily life in some cases.This story is about Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March in New England to live with their mother and their father in the war between the United States has been hit. Once they have been well to do family, but their case, reversing. Although the March family's wealth does not have the money, their love and family wealth. Meg and Joe have a job, Beth and Amy go to school at home, Marmee.

Jo is the sister of adventure, like a boy as a person. She did not always like her as his wife's sisters will take action. Jo is to help the lonely boy next door, Theodore Lawrence. Soon, Laurie is involved in many girls' adventure. As the five grow up, they enjoy many activities, growth, and strengthen their imagination.

Over time Mr. March returns home girls grow. They are from girlhood to womanhood, of love, and with the participation in the activities of the enterprise. Beth, all of the family favorite, with life-threatening diseases. Although she recovered, she never recovered her full strength. Jo's temper would not trouble her more than once. Meg, then Amy, who met the love of their lives. Beth continues to comfort the family in March. Laurie falls in love with Jo was rejected - she knew they were brothers / siser relationship, not a good husband and wife. Over time, a wise grandfather, and the right woman, Laurie recovery from Joe, and found a new love. Joe continues to write, trying to make a small amount of money, her story. She was sure she was never married, but even Jo found the people to change his mind.
I think this is a very interesting story for teenagers.
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LibraryThing member dorcas_yester
Enjoyable, well-written story overall, but characters could be a bit goody-goody. For the time period though, it is remarkably unpreachy.
LibraryThing member jshillingford
Little Women is, at its heart, a wonderful story about family. It's also an example of historical fiction that is great for young adults and adults. This is one of those rare "classics" that I think actually deserves to be called such. It reaches across generations and times - just about anyone with siblings can identify with what these girls go through as a family. Moreover, many people can also identify with having too little money to get by at times, and what a struggle it is to make ends meet. These characters are so real, with such individual personalities, that they come alive off the page and suck you into their world. I read this as young girl, and again as a woman. It resonated with me both times. Highly recommended.… (more)
LibraryThing member pickwick817
I enjoyed the book. The Jo character seems to be held up as the model daughter. It makes me think Alcott put some of herself into Jo.
LibraryThing member lunza
What can you say about this? It's a classic, for bleep's sake. The version I have has an afterword by Nina Auerbach, who wrote a biograph I own called "Ellen Terry: Player in her Time," which is a psychological view of the 19th-century Shakespearean actress. But that's another review. Let's just say that Auerbach does to Alcott what she did to Ellen Terry's life.… (more)
LibraryThing member hoosgracie
As a non-reading child, I had tried to get through Little Women and failed, although I always loved the movie (the June Allyson version specifically). So, I finally decided to "read" it by listening to the audio.

While I thoroughly enjoyed this classic story, aspects of it are very dated - thus the 1/2 star off my rating. Beth's tragedy is still striking, and I found Jo and Laurie as likeable as ever. I actually liked Amy a bit better than I thought I might and disliked Meg more.… (more)
LibraryThing member Wanderlust_Lost
The stirring, moving, sometimes tragic tale of life for 4 young daughters while their father is at war.
LibraryThing member arelenriel
This is one of the best books I have ever read.I loved it. It remins me of me and my sisters. Yes there are 4 of us.
LibraryThing member nandelh
I remember when I was teaching in the 2nd grade. I would tell my students that this was my favorite books and my students would reply that I had a lot of favorite books. Well this one is one of my favorits because of the independent spirits of the girls. Well writen and a joy to read.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
A lovely and lively vignette of girls growing up. I don't know what else I can say about it. The story is so well known, all I can say is that I enjoyed it to it's last classic page.
LibraryThing member theboylatham
Four out of ten. eBook.
The story of four sisters growing up and coming of age. It follows the girls from a young age into marriage and beyond. The first half of the book was reasonably entertaining but becomes dull and predictable. Obviously meant for young women and in the style of older books is slow moving and patronising at times.
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LibraryThing member 4sarad
This book isn't written poorly, and the stories aren't bad, but I still find it really annoying and hard to read. The characters are just very unbelievable. You can tell it's a children's story because all the girls always burst out in unison "Yes Mother!!" and things like that. They're just way too goody-goody to be interesting.
LibraryThing member NicoleHC
It's impossible to pinpoint the year I first read this. Probably the year I learned to read in sentences. Classic, indeed. A book I'd recommend to all little girls.
LibraryThing member AtomicPunk
A few months ago when I was in the mall and had to wait for some people there, I saw Little Women in the bookstore and decided to buy it to start reading it while I was waiting for them. I remembered reading it when I was a child, but I remembered absolutely nothing about it. The fact that I couldn't remember it should have told me something.

As I started reading it, the characters struck me as very one-dimensional. But I kept reading, waiting for the plot to get going to see if that would be interesting. Most of the book seemed focused on the girls' quest to be the best Christian women they could be, but they never faced any significant moral dilemmas or any conflicts that really seemed to challenge them.

Finally, toward the end of what was originally published as the first volume of the book, a little bit of a plot centered on Meg's romance caught my attention, but by that point it wasn't enough to keep me reading much farther. I very rarely find myself so disinterested in a book that I quit reading it, but after 249 pages of Little Women, I finally just could not bring myself to pick it up again.
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