Thursday, April 19, 2012

Little Women

I'm such a canon purist. I'm listening to the soundtrack for the musical adaptation of Little Women, and while the music is fun and spirited (and Sutton Foster is just, well, astonishing), what I have gleaned from the songs and the Wikipedia article shows me that the musical plays fast and loose with the particulars of the story. I guess that the musical is a bit too overstated for the quiet, humble tale that is the book. Well, I've not read the libretto, so perhaps not, but I'm left with reservations.

I don't know to which I was first exposed, the 1994 movie (which I recently bought online in a DVD sale and am eagerly awaiting since it is among the many, many titles lacking from Netflix's streaming library) or the Great Illustrated Classics version. I always liked the story, although I lamented that spoiled Amy shared my name rather than spirited Jo (because what girl wouldn't want to be like Jo?). A year or so ago I read the first volume of Little Women and was indignant to find that the library book I'd received didn't have the second part as well. At that point I didn't know that it was two books in the main story (yeah, I know there are two sequels as well). And the really good bits, the payoff only comes in part two.

The first book has the characters as girls, but now they're all young women and more complex. For one thing, I was extremely relieved and gratified by the character development Amy saw. For another, during the first part, you could see Laurie falling heavily for Jo, and, like Laurie, I, and probably plenty of other readers, thought he and Jo totally went together (I recall reading that Alcott totally ticked off the shippers in her own time by not having Jo and Laurie end up together). So when she turned him down, I knew what was coming, and I wasn't sure I'd buy it. No worries. The professor was introduced and developed in a charming fashion, and it became easy to see how well he and Jo complemented each other. And what I really enjoyed was in the home stretch of events leading up to the proposal (actually both sets of proposals in part two), how the romance was not overblown and dramatic, but simple and true, Jo with her awkwardness in the rain, Laurie's rowboat metaphor, things like that make the story all the more endearing. And if occasionally the moralizing seems a little trite to our modern sympathies, well, the sincerity of the work redeems it.

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