Little Women: A Novel

by Louisa May Alcott

Paperback, 1915


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Call number

SC Al c.3


Penguin Books (2019), 480 pages


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

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User reviews

LibraryThing member mmignano11
Oh book of little women about your little men! I was charmed by Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" and I'm bound to read another book by her. It has been suggested that I read "Eight Cousins." I could not help but notice that each of the girls is involved in the pursuit of a man to make her life
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complete, because as she sees it, the formation of a family is the focus of a young man or woman's life, and why be coy about it? The characters in "Little Women" each of whom the reader follows from childhood to young adulthood into motherhood, are a combination of saucy, bitingly honest, refreshingly sincere and touchingly common, in the gentlest sense of the word. Even the vocabulary reflects their station in life. At any given point, the reader can find a sentence in which the character states "It don't mean" or she "don't intend to" but they do not lack commonsense or book smarts, as provided by their home-schooling mother, fondly called"Marmee." Money is never the focus of their love interests, while still being of key importance to young women who always struggled for more than the basic necessities. And yet, when necessary, they gave generously of what they called their own, be it time, money, clothing or food. Throughout the book, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth, lovingly exist in their plain home next to the dwelling of the Laurence boy, Teddy. His friendship with them is of long-standing, in fact, he finally becomes a part of the family. Each of the girls has their own special quality that serves them best and makes them special to the other members of the family. Jo is focused on primarily, and she, in turn, focuses on the family for the readers, who see them through Jo's eyes. There is Meg, proper oldest sister, who becomes a model of domesticity for her younger sisters, and Amy, the painfully shy youngest sister, talented piano player, much beloved of Mr. Laurence, the girls benefactor and appointed grandfather, who has a piano moved to the house for the March girls pleasure. Beth,next youngest, is never quite well, but decidedly proper and made much of by her sisters, particularly Jo.And then, Jo, the writer, outspoken and unabashedly opinionated, admired by her sisters, self-appointed protector and instructor for Teddy.
Not only were the characters quite fun to observe as they developed into "little women" but the story was well-written, full of literary allusions and other well noted references. Each chapter is titled and progresses the story to its conclusion, in which the March sisters are happily ensconced within their small, nuclear families. It was a relaxing pleasure to read "Little Women" and I did not find it syrupy sweet as I suspected I might due to the era in which it was written. No, I looked forward to the ways in which they solved each of their dilemmas and I think I read it at the appropriate time in my life, when I seemed to benefit from an enduring classic of the American home. It seemed to me not unlike a memoir, and as it is based loosely on Alcott's life I think it is safe to say it was fiction's closest cousin. I recommend it highly, and also suggest it for a family read.
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LibraryThing member soniaandree
Somehow, this book did not work for me - the March daughters were too readily faulty and the parallel with Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' was just too...righteous. The fact that Jo and Laurie are not marrying as I thought they should was way too much; the absent father comes back to check on his
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daughters, only to comment that they are becoming 'perfect' women (his comments about their change of character was, in my opinion, a true reflection of the concerns of the time - the denial of the 'self' to become society's ideal woman in the civil war: charitable, selfless, sacrificing all for the greater good in the absence of men, etc...). While I may have enjoyed just reading it, I felt unease at the background ideology, I am sorry to say!
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LibraryThing member wenzowsa
As one ages, one's perspective on this book changes. I, myself, enjoyed Beth, the good, kind, and patient sister, the most when I was a child. Her death always made me sob uncontrollably. Oh tragedy! Now that I'm older, about a good twenty years older than when I first read this book, I've
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discovered that I admire Jo, the protagonist, more. Her willingness to assert herself in a world where women were expected to be dutiful and quiet is commendable, and her personality, I believe, is the most developed out of the three other sisters.

This book is the perfect example of the classic American novel.
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
There's a reason this book is so beloved - the March's are that ideal family. Love is not perfect, but it endures. Each of the girls (and their parents, for that matter) have flaws and shortcomings, but there is a continual striving to be better and to look to the ideal. This is not a modern novel,
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however. There is plenty of philosophizing, particularly in the second part (my copy includes both "Little Women" and "Good Wives") and the Christian faith of the family is very apparent. I loved many of the scenes from the first half - Jo meeting Laurie at a dance - hiding her stained glove and burned dress, the dramas the girls put on, the mailbox between the March home and the Laurence home, the week the girls did no work. All the details made this family come alive for me. By contrast, the second half had fewer of these scenes and more summaries of what had happened to each character, which I thought made it not as strong.
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LibraryThing member krizia_lazaro
I would have given it a five-star or it would have been my favorite if Jo and Laurie ended up together. I was too devastated after that chapter, good thing it was near the end because I don't think that I can read more Amy-Laurie stuff...bleh bleh bleh! Jo and Laurie are meant to be together. haha!
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However, aside from that, everything was great. Great plot, great writing and lovable characters (except for Amy...biter!). A must-read classic.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
A book that both defines and transcends the sentimental literature of the nineteenth century, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is one of those lifelong companions that I have read and re-read, in whole and in part, too many times to count...

The story of the four March sisters, their adventures and
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friends, their joys and sorrows as they come of age during the tumultuous period of the American Civil War, is as relevant today as when it was first written. Here we see both the warmth and strength of family love, and the bitter rivalries that can arise between siblings. As someone who grew up in a house with three girls, I could enter fully into many of the characters' feelings, whether it was Amy's pique at being left out, or Jo's righteous indignation at the burning of her precious papers, and subsequent ecstasy of repentance when her anger almost costs her something far more dear. Who hasn't longed, like Meg at Vanity Fair, to be popular? And who hasn't secretly wished that, like Beth, they had a kindly benefactor?

Like the March girls, many children today must cope with the absence of a parent, whether through military service or other causes; and like the March girls, children have always been forced to confront difficult moral choices as they struggle to become adults. I have sometimes seen this book described as very "modern" in its appreciation of the many different kinds of friendship and love possible between men and women. Frankly, I tend to think that every generation overestimates its distinctness, and that what some read as "modern," are simply observations about the human animal that were as true in the 1860s as they are today...

There are so many aspects of Alcott's masterpiece that I love, that it would be impossible to list them all. Suffice it to say that this is a beautiful book, both in its overarching themes and structure, and in its particular characters and narratives incidents. Finally, I should note that although this book has been published in a seemingly endless variety of editions, I myself grew up on the Illustrated Junior Library edition, with illustrations by Louis Jambor.
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LibraryThing member Lukerik
A book so sweet it made my stomach churn. So few authors have made me respond physically (though never churning before) that I have given it an extra star. An interesting document of what people did before the invention of television (ie, not a lot) and I'm sure generations of students will be able
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to churn out papers on whether or not Jo is a lesbian. Unfortunately the narrative is so very boring that I am abandoning it a few chapters into part two.

Alcott is determined to avoid any incident of interest. Take the episode where one of the characters puts on a fashionable dress. Anything could of happened, I don't know, she could have been showered in the spunk of her admirers, but no, she changes back into her normal clothes, and repenting, promises never to do it again.

I thought at first that Alcott was being boring by mistake. Take Chapter 10, which consists of some documents produced by the girls during one of their games. The chapter is shorter than usual and I thought at first that Alcott had bored even herself, but she emits a similar performance in Chapter 16, a collection of letters none of which contain information of any interest or consequence.

I would recommend this book to little girls who were rude to me.
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LibraryThing member AdonisGuilfoyle
I must 'fess' - my only fault is writing cynical reviews of 'classic' novels that everyone else loves! I will try to be a better reviewer, and aspire to be blinded by nostalgia, and put my faith in God - no, wait, I won't. Little Women must have rotted my brain! What a trying read! I watched the
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BBC adaptation a couple of Christmases ago and loved the story and the characters, so I instantly downloaded the book - but never got around to completely destroying the illusion until now. The adaptation was far, far better than the 'classic' novel - and according to devoted fans of Alcott, the 2017 adaptation is not even one of the better retellings! I completely understand the distortion of nostalgia - I love the Scarlet Pimpernel books by Baroness Orczy, but understand how modern readers hate the florid prose and biased view of the French Revolution. Little Women is like that - for those readers who were introduced to Meg, Amy, Beth and Jo as children, I'm sure the author's simplistic narrative, cliched characters and leaden moral lessons will never fall out of fashion, but I struggled to read the first book and won't be continuing with Good Wives.
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LibraryThing member Rachissy
It took me a few days longer than I thought it would, but I finally finished Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I am actually a bit surprised that in my 28 years as a woman, I never managed to read this one, especially in my younger years. Of course, it's reputation as THE must-read for teenage
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girls is probably the number one reason I never picked it up at that age since I was the kind of girl who refused to do anything she was expected to do.

Now that I've finally read and finished it, I think it would have done me a lot of good to read it back then. I could have learned a lesson or two from the March girls about listening too and respecting their mother and also about working hard and not being idle. The March girls are the model of perfect daughters, even with their very few faults. They are loving, good, respectful, grateful, and mild-mannered. My one major problem with the book is that it's hard to read page after page of perfection. Even when trouble arises they still act perfect and as expected. The few times one of them does something less than ideal it only takes but a few minutes for them to be remorseful about it. It's their perfection that bothered me the most. I am a very flawed individual as are most people. It gives you character and makes you more interesting to learn about. There are no surprises with perfect creatures. You know exactly how they will react and what they'll do in any situation and I think it even makes them less likeable. Have you ever met someone who an do no wrong? After a while it starts to drive you crazy and you find yourself just praying for them to lose it and start screaming at someone. That's what I was waiting for. Having seen the movie, I knew it wasn't going to happen but I was still hoping for an argument, or some drama.

Of course this could just be a sign of the times. The book begins near the end of the civil war and at the time it was expected of women to be perfect and angelic creatures who dream of nothing but serving others and being agreeable and good. So in that time, I'm sure the few instances of the girls being less than perfection probably stood out a lot more. Also, since Louisa May Alcott used her own family and sisters as her inspiration for the story, perhaps she wanted to paint them all in that kind of light as a tribute to them. I know that if I wrote a story about my own family I would have a hard time focusing on their faults as well and I can't blame her for wanting to portray them in a positive light.

For me, I just kept wondering what the big deal was. It was a good story but I just don't see what makes it as big of a classic as it has become. To me, it was just a nice story about four lovely girls and their fairly simple and unremarkable lives. It was easy to read as each chapter is like almost it's own little short story of some event that happens in the family over the years. However, I just didn't get absorbed into the book, I found it to be a little preachy. Almost, like listening to my grandmother telling me how I should think and act and I got as sick of hearing it from the book as I did from my grandma. Maybe it's just a problem with me though. I do plan on making my daughter read it when she's a bit older though, maybe she'll take the lessons to heart and give me an easier time in her adolescence than I gave my own mother. A mother can dream, right?
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LibraryThing member erinas
Although this family are't rich, they help many poor people.
When I read the point of this story, I was very impressed.
I think that they are very kind person.
They have each personality. So this is interesting.
I resemble Amy in youngest child in this book.
She is selfishness,isn't obedient. But she
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likes her sisters.
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LibraryThing member MerryMary
A new copy of an old favorite. What girl of my (advanced!) age didn't read this delightful story about growing up? At times a morality play, at times a comedy of manners, at times a soap opera, always a delight.
LibraryThing member Zohrab
A beautiful story about 4 young sisters growing up in a New England during Civil War times. A great novel to be read at younger age. As an adult the novel seemed to drug on a little.
LibraryThing member echoesofstars
This is my favorite book. Good morality as the basis for strong character is at the heart of the lessons throughout the book. However, I am disappointed in the sequel (part two of the book). It seems that Ms. Alcott wrote part two to simply please her audience. Although the moral character of the
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girls remains strong, there is less attention paid to the everyday details of their lives, which was the charm of part one. The goal of part two, it seems, is simply to get the girls off and married, rather than focusing on the small defining moments of personal growth for each character.

In spite of this, I have never read any other book (other than the Bible) that has touched my heart so deeply and has ministered so well to my own struggles with personal growth and positive character development. I only wish I had read this book sooner.
The book's wisdom, so neatly packaged but yet so very conspicuous, blesses the reader in an easy, non-judgemental way. It causes the reader to reflect on her own life and to make positive changes in attitude and thought to such a degree that self-help books can only look on with envy.

If you have a teenage or young adult daughter, encourage her to read this book. She will be greatly blessed for it, not only by the charming story, but quite possibly by the changes in her heart and mind that result from the good influence of Alcott's Little Women.
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LibraryThing member SheReadsNovels
If you read and enjoy Little Women, you'll almost certainly want to read the sequel, Good Wives, so I recommend buying the two-books-in-one version if possible.

I first read these books as a child but still love them now. Little Women tells the story of four sisters - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - whose
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father is away fighting in the Civil War. Everyone will be able to identify with at least one of the sisters, which is part of the appeal of the book. Good Wives continues the story as the girls grow up.

There are also two more books in the series - Little Men and Jo's Boys.
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LibraryThing member erinsonyabean
I liked Part I alot and connected to Jo instantly. I must say that the second part disappointed me alot, but it is still nicely written, and I guess some could say it wasnt disappointing at all.
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
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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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LibraryThing member misscatie
I read "Little Women" for the first time when I was eight years old. Since then I've read it so many times that it barely has a cover anymore! It has had an incredible impact on me--so much so that I've used how it's affected me as a topic for college application essays. I have three younger
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sisters (and a little brother) and I've often thought about us in relation to the March sisters. I also see aspects of each of the sister's characters in my own: I am modest and motherly like Meg, passionate, stubborn and wildly affectionate like Jo, sweet, ill and thoughtful like Beth and I long to be taken seriously, much like Amy. I completely love this book.
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LibraryThing member cfbookgroup
We read this in conjunction with March by Geraldine Brooks. It is, of course, a classic. We discussed whether children of today would find it so...
LibraryThing member MissLizzy
One of my mother's favorite books, and consequently, one of mine. This is yet another of my favorite books, and when I had the great luck to tour Orchard House, Louisa's home in which she wrote and centered her novel around, in 2003, I became even more absorbed. I also love the fact that even
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though she wrote this novel, as well as several children's/Christmas stories, more of her work is as dark and foreboding as Jo's never-ending scribbles.
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LibraryThing member lookingforpenguins
Every woman should read this book at least once every ten years.
LibraryThing member Owan
I read this once or twice when I was quite young, and liked it just fine then, but I'm sure I wouldn't like it know, I grew out of the "Ooh! Let's watch the little people and their lives" I want more action nowadays. Though as I recall it's a very lovely book, realistic and well written. I'd
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readily hand it into the hands of a early reading girl.
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LibraryThing member Miki.ka
The book is a story about four sisters-Meg,Jo,Beth,and Amy March.
Each sisters has a different plan for her future life.
Meg is going to marry John Brooke. Jo wants an exiting life and she wants to be a famous writer. Amy wants to be a painter and she wants to travel to Europe. Beth wants to stay at
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I don't have any sisters. But I think this story appear the bond of brotherfood.
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LibraryThing member FolkeB
Little Women gives readers a glimpse into the daily lives of a lower middle class family during and after the Civil War. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy suffer through many hardships such as poverty, illness, death, and love, but always grow from their experiences. The four sisters all have distinctly
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different personalities but each is realistic enough that readers can easily relate to them, and Alcott develops all her character so well that it’s easy to get lost in their world and truly care about what happens. It was very enjoyable to watch the girls grow and mature into sensible young women despite the difficulties in their lives. Each chapter in the novel tells a new misadventure of the family and usually ends with Alcott telling us the moral we are to learn from it. I would have appreciated it if Alcott had given her readers a bit more credit and allowed us to ponder the significance of things on our own. Overall it was a very enjoyable historical fiction book and truly worthy of its status as a classic!

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LibraryThing member jmcilree
At times, sweet and tender. But overly moralistic.
LibraryThing member BookMarkMe
I found that this novel was overly moralistic and sickly sweet for my tastes but well written nevertheless.

I can see the attraction for its target audience. Just not for me.


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Physical description

480 p.; 5.5 inches


0143135562 / 9780143135562



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