Book Review

Little Women Book and Movie Review

Whenever someone asks me which author I would love to have a conversation with, my mind always drifts to the authors that are no longer with us but who were well beyond their times. One of these authors is Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Women. In a time when marriage and domestic life was perceived as a woman’s main role, Louisa May Alcott created a female character with big dreams to write and to make her own way in the world.

I remember two things from when I read Little Women twenty years ago:
1) I am Jo March.
2) How fun it would be to become a writer.

Here are my thoughts after rereading Little Women twenty years later:
1) I am Jo March.
2) I must keep writing even when it’s hard.

You do not have to be a writer or even a woman to appreciate this story. It is a timeless classic that is sure to appeal to people from all walks of life. I’m so happy that this was the first book I read at the very start of the new year and decade.

The March Sisters:

Little Women revolves around the four March sisters as they navigate through the years of their youth and the struggles of being poor and having their father away at war. Each sister is very different in their own way with dreams they wish to accomplish and hardships they learn to overcome.

20200112_141015.jpgJo March:
“You are the gull, Jo, strong and wild, fond of the storm and the wind, flying far out to sea, and happy all alone.”

Beth March:
“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping..”

Meg March:
“Meg is like a turtledove, which represents love”

Amy March:
“Amy is like the lark she writes about, trying to get up among the clouds, but always dropping down into its nest again”

Meg dreams of what life could be were she rich and did not have to work. Jo longs to be a writer and struggles to control her temper. Beth is the grateful little dove that does not take any moment for granted and enjoys playing the piano. Amy is the little artist who learns to look beyond the superficial. The bond between the sisters is truly heart warming. Despite all their quarrels and moving on to different stages in their lives, they always find a way back home to each other.

Jo March Book vs. Movie:

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.” ― Louisa May Alcott,

I love that feeling when you are reading a book and one of the characters becomes more and more relatable to you. Then as you close the book and put it aside you realize “I am that character”. This is what I felt when I was reading about Jo March. While I must admit that Jo is much more adventurous and brave, I feel like we have aligned over the years with our love for writing. The scenes with Jo dealing with the crippling self-doubt as well as being protective of her writing were really raw. You can tell that the author was writing from personal experience that only a writer would know.

BOOK AND MOVIE SPOILERS AHEAD:

I know there are many people who wish Jo and Laurie ended up together. I remember wishing for the same thing as a teenager. Maybe there was a small part of me that still wished it would happen as I reread the book. I never really understood why Jo ended up with the professor in the end. It just seemed unlike her, despite the deep connection she felt for the person who was supportive of her literary career. He felt more like a mentor than a love interest. I felt that there could have been a better ending for Jo, but I never knew what it was until I watched the most recent movie of Little Women.

The Ending of the Movie:

If you have not watched the Little Women movie yet STOP READING!
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I had finished my reread of Little Women and went to see the movie the very next day. I loved everything about it and felt the characters were well cast. But it was the ending that stole my heart. Before I discuss the ending, let us take a step back and explore the vision Louisa May Alcott had for her beloved Jo.

In the many articles I read, it was revealed that Louisa may have felt pressured into giving Jo a more traditional “happily ever after” at the request of her readers and publisher. Her original vision for Jo was one that reflected her own life. Louisa decided to please her readers by giving Jo a happily ever after involving marriage and children.

“Women Have Minds And Souls As Well As Just Hearts, And They’ve Got Ambition And Talent As Well As Just Beauty. And I’m Sick Of People Saying That Love Is All A Woman Is Fit For” – Jo March from the movie version of Little Women.

The movie did something absolutely remarkable that left me smiling and thinking, “yes, this feels like something Jo March would have done”. In the movie we see Jo negotiating the terms of her book “Little Women” that is the story of the March Sisters. She reveals to the publisher that she turned down both men in her life, as chronicled in her book. The publisher encourages her to change the ending for her character by accepting the professor’s hand in marriage. The movie ends with Jo, single, watching her book getting printed and bound.

“I’d Rather Be A Free Spinster And Paddle My Own Canoe.” – Jo March from the movie Little Women.

I absolutely loved this little twist in the end because in many ways it honoured Louisa May Alcott’s vision for Jo March decades after the release of the book. Critics have called this version of Little Women perfect for this generation, and I cannot agree more. At the end of the day, Jo lives her dream of becoming an author and remains independent like she always wanted. It also leaves it open to the interpretation that this young girl realized her dream and there could always be a possibility of love in her future, either with someone coming into her life or from the words she writes on the pages. Either way, it is her choice to make.

I also love how Meg reminds Jo that women can have different dreams that are equally important. Jo dreams of being independent and Meg dreams of getting married and staring a family of her own. I loved this exchange between them because it shows the way things should be: marriage as a choice and dream rather than a social obligation.

“Just Because My Dreams Are Different Than Yours, It Doesn’t Mean They’re Unimportant.” – Meg March from the movie Little Women.

This classic will always have a special place on my bookshelf and in my heart. The movie is my favorite version for all the heart and soul that went into creating the world of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and staying true to her vision.

Happy Reading Bookworms,

Shazia.

Book Review · Bookish Thoughts

The Last Chapter of the Decade

Have you ever wondered how the books you read shape your life?

We are a mere four hours away from the New Year and a new decade, which means I’m in my pyjamas eating biryani and reflecting on the incredible things that I have experienced these past few years. Looking back on the decade, I know that a lot of my time was spent reading books. People often ask me how I can read so much. How do I find the time? Don’t I get sick of reading? The truth is reading is such an integral part of who I am and the person I have become. I make time for it because I need books like I need air. Think I’m exaggerating? Get ready for my monologue.

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A Decade of Reading:

When you read as many books as I do, you tend to see your own life as a book. Your age becomes the current chapter of your book. The cruel people you meet in your life become your villains. Those unexpected surprises in life become your plot twists. Milestones become your happily ever afters. Except your book never really ends does it? It can’t while you’re still alive. So you have sequels, those books that take off right after a cliffhanger or your current happily ever after. Is this metaphor falling apart? Still with me? Good. I relish in book metaphors so let’s keep going with this.

My Life, My Book:

If I can look at the last decade of my life as if it were a book I would say that there have been many surprising plot twists along the way. There have been extraordinary highs and devastating lows. There have been quite a few villains and many secondary characters that became friends. I imagine the book of my life would be a hardcover midnight blue volume with my name written in golden embossing. The pages would be frayed, dog-eared and delicate, because life is never neat and a worn book is always one that had a good shelf life (just look at my childhood copies of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice).

You Are What You Read (does that make me a serial killer?):

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I really believe that the books I have read helped me make sense of this messy thing called life. Every story, villain and lesson from the books I read in the past ten years helped me put things into perspective and sometimes gave me the courage to be brave with my own life. I slayed my own dragons and took leaps of faith thanks to the inspirational words I read in some truly beautiful novels. Sometimes I would see myself in the characters I was reading about. I would understand their struggles and insecurities. Reading about these fictional characters overcoming their struggles made me feel hopeful about my own. Of course I read the occasional true crime book and that just makes me want to hide under my blanket fort and never speak to a stranger again. The lesson from these books: use criminal profiling to assess for sociopathic tendencies in sketchy individuals. (I can actually see my friends rolling their eyes at this). The moral of this long blog post: there are many life lessons to be found in books. 

Here are some of the lessons I learned from these incredible authors over the years:

Lessons From the Last Decade of Reading:

Lesson from Jane Austen:
Never settle in any area of your life and do not be so quick to jump to conclusions. (Poor Mr. Darcy).

Lesson from J.K. Rowling:
Do not let the muggles get you down and to hold on tight to your patronus during dark times. (Fun fact: my patronus is a squirrel. Shooting those dementors away with rabies).

Lesson from Sarah J. Mass – Author of A Court of Thorn and Roses
Do not let the hard days win and to choose your inner circle wisely.
And find yourself a Rhysand (this may prove to be difficult).

Lesson from Khaled Hosseini – Author of A Thousand Splendid Suns
Wonderful things happen when women support each other and true friendships mean you are there during the tough times and the good times.

Lesson from Frances Hodgson Burnett – Author of A Little Princess
You will meet many villains in your lifetime. Almost all of these villains will be adults.
Stay strong, have faith in yourself and never let their words and actions destroy your inner peace.

Lesson from Paulo Coelho – Author of The Alchemist
You need to go after that thing you want most in your life. Find your passion, pursue it and life will realign itself to help you get there. (This book inspired me to move forward with my writing).

Lesson from Paul Kalanithi – Author of When Breath Becomes Air
This book really was a stepping-stone in helping me become comfortable talking about death. As a pediatric nurse, I have seen death and this author’s story helped me find a way to become comfortable enough to speak with grieving parents and grieve with them.

Lesson from Jeannette Walls – Author of The Glass Castle
Your quirky family is forever and there is a power in owning your story and sharing it.

Lesson from Vex King – Author of Good Vibes, Good Life
Friends and toxic people will leave. Let them go and allow life to fill that free space with wonderful new things. This is probably one of the greatest lessons I learned in 2019 and so grateful for it.

Lesson from Leigh Bardugo – Author of Six of Crows
You may be different and people may not understand your way of life or who you are and that’s ok. They don’t have to understand you for you to be happy with your life. Rock on weirdo!

Lesson from Michelle Obama – Author of Becoming
You should always be evolving. Take chances. Break out of your comfort zone. You will be amazed what doors open for you.

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I really do believe that we are all one book away from changing our lives. Whether you are a parent reading stories to your baby, a new reader looking for the right book or a long-time reader like myself, I hope you find that book you need in your life. My wish for 2020 is to finish writing my story that I hope will find its way into a reader’s heart one day. 

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year and may this year bring you the plot twist you are waiting for in your story.

Happy reading bookworms!

Shazia.