A month or two ago, I found a killer copy of “Little Women.” It called itself “faux leather,” but really, it was simply paperback with a textured cover. But it was bright orange, the font was perfect and sized correctly (am I the only one who can’t read a book if the font looks cruddy?) and it smelled. Just. Perfect.
As I started to read the book, more and more of a particular episode of “Friends” came to mind — you know the one, where Rachel and Joey read one another’s favorite books: “Little Women” and “The Shining,” respectively.
Well, if you’ve seen the episode, you know that they ruin each book for the other. And I thought, “NOOOO!! I can’t believe I remember that Jo dies!! And she’s the obvious character that readers are supposed to choose as their favorite March sister. But I don’t want my favorite sister to die. So I choose Beth as my favorite.” (Do you see where this is going?)
Yes, Jo is the spirited sister. She’s the writer, she’s a tomboy, she can’t be contained, she hates ladylike things. Beth, meanwhile, is the quiet sister. She’s the sweet one, the musician, the good one. Meg is vain, and Amy’s a bitch, but Beth — there’s a roll model.
(All sorts of spoilers are going to happen now, so if you don’t want to know, I won’t mind if you go away. Here, why not check out these “11 Incredibly Important Photos of a Baby Covered in French Bulldog Puppies instead.”)
About 3/4 of the way through the book, Beth gets scarlet fever. And I started to think, “No … No JO is supposed to get sick, not BETH.” And the more I read, the more my memory of Rachel’s line altered from “Jo dies” to “Beth dies.” So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the book … no one has died. How strange …
I did some Googles and found details about Meg’s twins, about Amy’s time abroad and I realized … my awesome copy of “Little Women”? Yeah, it was just half the book. It made no mention that this volume was missing Book 2 of the full novel. I downloaded the full version on my iPhone and read most of it that way until I could get to Barnes & Noble for a real copy (yes, that means I own 2 1/2 copies of “Little Women” — 1 1/2 paperbacks and a free digital download).
It turns out, “Friends” didn’t lie to me, there IS a death — of the favorite character I chose so I wouldn’t be disappointed by another character’s death. Luckily Louisa May Alcott assured I wouldn’t be that sad by making Beth a ridiculously minor figure in the second half of the book.
Nevermind my crappy memory for details, how much I enjoyed “Little Women” is a testament to the book’s sweetness and story. I love me a coming-of-age story, and the earnestness found in the March sisters is so endearing that I can’t help but enjoy the book.
But let’s be honests: I have to point out some serious issues I take with the book. For one, I’m sorry, the word “womenfolk” is disgusting. Yeah, “Little Women” is set in the late 1800s, so there’s some leeway for traditional gender rolls and expectations.But the word evokes images of 1950s women vacuuming around her husband’s feet while he smokes a pipe and sips on his Gin Rickey.
Naturally, the book can only end after each sister is paired off with a man and made into a mother — even the sister who never wanted that for herself. I’m not knocking that choice — um, hi, I’m married — I’m simply pointing out that it’s clear to the reader that we are to believe the sisters wouldn’t have found contentment without her respective man to provide it. And I typically wouldn’t dig this as a major plot point to a book.
But … but … it’s just such a dang cute book!
Any “Little Women” readers out there? What say you?