When asked to choose one book that had a particular impact on me as a child for the SpReAd the Love Book Challenge, several actually came to mind.
I grew up in house filled with books. The big built-in bookshelves in the living room were overflowing, not to mention the stacks of books on our bedroom shelves, the ones on the bedside tables, under the beds . . . well, you get my drift. My parents had me enrolled in a book club as a preschooler, with my older sisters reading the stories to me. I almost feel as if I came out of the womb loving books.
So, while I adored Beryl Netherclift’s “The Snowstorm,” a story about a set of modern-day siblings encountering several 18th century ghosts in their eccentric aunt’s old house in the English countryside, and enjoyed a charming Civil War-era tale about a spirited young girl, “Miney and the Blessing,” ultimately it was Louisa May Alcott’s classic semi-autobiographical story “Little Women” that won out. To this day, I can quote passages from the book. I have seen and enjoyed elements of all the various film treatments of the story, too.
The cast of the 1933 George Cukor version of the story: Katharine Hepburn, Joan Bennett, Frances Dee and Jean Parker. Courtesy of Franklymydear
But truly, nothing compares to sitting down as I recently did, opening up the handsome illustrated hard-bound edition I invested in a few years ago, and reading the story of four sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy–growing up in New England during the Civil War. Their beloved father is far away, serving as a clergyman for the Union Army and the once well-to-do family has fallen on hard times.
I am the youngest of three daughters of a farmer who had grown up on what was classified as a plantation, with thousands of acres of fertile land, cotton gin, lumber mill, company store and a host of farm hands. They weren’t rich, but they were very comfortable, particularly for south Alabama folks in the ’20s and ’30s. However, by the time my dad started his own family, those days were long ago and we had times of struggle, too. So I could relate to the girls sometimes wishing those salad days were still there to be enjoyed.
But most of all, I could relate to the “little women” themselves. Most readers identify mainly with just one of the characters. Oddly, I found I saw elements of myself in each of the four March daughters. Like Meg, the eldest, I seemed to have a taste for finer things (even if my budget did not always agree); like Jo, I loved books, liked to write and play act and considered my hair my “one beauty.” Like Beth, I could be quite timid around those outside my comfort zone and I, too, adored music (although it was my older sister who was the talented pianist among us). And like Amy, the youngest, I was a regular “snow maiden,” fair-haired and pale, with a less-than-classical nose I heartily detested and a real talent for drawing. I have to confess I was also a bit spoiled and something of a goose at times.
And I really enjoyed the closeness of the March sisters. Oh, they didn’t always get along, anymore than I did with my own two siblings. But you always knew in the end they would be there for one another. I loved their theatrical events with homemade props and special effects, their Pickwick Society, their desire to build “castles in the air.” And of course, there was neighbor Laurie, the orphaned lad living with his wealthy grandfather, who eventually became part of the family, too.
“Little Women” reinforces the importance of family and friendship, the power in forgiveness, the importance of being true to yourself and the pleasures life offers that cannot be purchased in a store. There is a warmth and true humanity in this book, which will likely be read and loved by generations to come.
I imagine them opening the book to that first page and reading, as I have so many times~
“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents . . .”
I will be donating a copy of “Little Women” to the Greenville-Butler County Library for their children’s library section. Any child in the county can obtain a card here and enjoy all the library offers to our community.