I don’t remember when I first read Little Women. I do know how I discovered it. We had a small collection of classics that had been my aunts’–they were girls in the 1930s and 1940s, so they were really beautiful editions. Little Women was in that collection (I think with illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith, but that copy is at mom’s house), along with Heidi and Bambi and all sorts of other wonderful books. I also remember loving the book–until Meg got married and the girls grew up and it got kind of mushy. Eventually, I grew up a bit too, revisited it, and fell in love with the whole wonderful book.
But it has been many, many years since I’ve read Little Women. Not that I’ve ignored Alcott in the last decade or so. I’ve been to Orchard House twice–the only literary landmark I’ve visited twice. I’ve read some of her other works, including Hospital Sketches. I devoured the dual biography of Louisa and her father, Eden’s Outcasts. But I haven’t actually read Little Women in at least 10 years.
Currently, I’m preparing a talk on the Civil War in children’s literature, so I simply had to reread it. And I’m enjoying it so much more than I thought I would, and I can’t figure out why it’s been so long since I’ve reread it.
For the last several years (really, since the advent of goodreads and realizing exactly how many books are on my to-read list), I haven’t spent much time re-reading. There are so many wonderful, unread books that I haven’t wanted to spend my limited reading time on old friends. And yet, as I revisit the March family, I’m seeing so many things I’ve never seen before. Jo is so imperfect and yet so real. Amy isn’t nearly as annoying as I had previously thought. Every girl struggles with her faith journey (I love the scene with Amy’s little corner for reflection and prayer). Before, I had always been of the camp that believed Jo and Laurie should have ended up together. Now, I agree with Marmee that it would have been a disastrous marriage. Plus, I’m head over heels with Professor Bhaer! Even though I know exactly what’s going to happen (we shall not speak of Beth’s death just yet), I’m eager to get back to the story and keep reading.
So friends, what old favorite have you neglected in recent years? Is it time to renew your acquaintance?