Things in Print Thursday :: my childhood with historical fiction, part three

2 Oct

Let’s talk a little more about Little Women, yes?

I don’t think I can possibly oversell how important this book (these books, all three of them, though the first one most of all) was and is to me, and a lot of that is the sister thing.  It’s weird, I don’t have sisters by blood and I never have, but in this case I expect it was mostly a combination of wishful idealization of what sisters could theoretically be at mostly their best and sisters-as-extension-of-friends.  The shenanigans that the March girls got up to as children really wasn’t that different from what my friends and I got up to (writing stories, putting on stupid elaborate plays, etcetera) and I really appreciated the way they loved each other.

(Well, mostly.  Jo and Amy never got on, and that didn’t really change with age, but it was sort of a love-you-but-don’t-like-you arrangement.)

The historical aspect of the story was different than with Dear America and American Girl books, because it was actually written around the time it was set.  It wasn’t historical-on-purpose, it was just of its time.  But the historical context did give it some elements that the modern literature I was partaking of as a kid didn’t have: the make-your-own-fun element to an extent (although that was common to a lot of my stuff, and whether or not that influenced my life or whether my life influenced the fact that I sought things of that sort out is unclear), the obvious war things, the nature of the March family’s economic situation, the social aspects.  For example, the internet just reminded me that Meg didn’t actually get married until she was twenty, which was unusual for the time, but to me that’s still terrifying.  They did things that as a child seemed exotic to me (quilting?  Cool, and my grandmother actually made a Little Women quilt when I was a kid that I have always desired, but something I still can’t imagine doing myself) and things that now I somewhat envy (Amy’s jaunt with Aunt March to Europe, for example, though Aunt March would be impossible to spend that much time with).

And overall… I still appreciate this story a lot more than a lot of more “grown-up” classic literature, like I’ve said before.  I’ve read the two sequels, Little Men and Jo’s Boys, fewer times (this is both because I acquired them later and because, well, they featured more boys), and all three books made me feel things.  All three books made me cry as a kid (to the point where the musical almost made me cry as well) and all three books made me smile a lot.  I grew into Jo when I was little and I probably outgrew her a little bit as the books went on (I’d always liked her because she didn’t give a damn about things, and then she married… a guy old enough to be her dad almost and started a school with him, but y’know, power to her, it just related less to me personally) but the story overall I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow.

They’re not perfect.  They’re possibly a little saccharine and/or preachy in places.  But they were a big part of me.

–your fangirl heroine.

don't be silly

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