Out of all of the books I have recommended for children thus far on this blog, this book tops the list.
I’d never read this classic by Louisa May Alcott when I was a child and we needed to read a Classic Novel for Homeschool so I chose this one. And I’m glad I did.
We follow the lives of four girls named Margaret (Meg), Jo, Beth, and Amy as they grow up over the span of about 15 years. When the novel starts, Meg is the oldest at 16 and Amy the youngest at 10. Mr. March volunteered to be a chaplain in the Civil War so the girls and their mother, Mrs. March, are tending the house alone. The girls befriend their next door neighbor, a lonesome boy named Laurie Lawrence, who lives with his rich grandfather as he has been orphaned. He is 15 when the novel opens.
The overarching story has its dramatic moments like when Mr. March gets sick and Mrs. March must leave the girls alone to tend to him in Washington. During this time, Beth catches scarlet fever and all fear she will die. She recovers but never fully. She is left frail and in the end she loses her life at a young age, which she accepts. Laurie goes off to college. Meg gets married and has twins. Jo spends some time in New York where she meets an elderly gentleman whom she eventually marries. And Amy ends up marrying Laurie. Jo inherits her rich aunt’s estate when she dies and turns it into a boys’ school. All the family stays nearby and it concludes with a big family picnic.
This is all great stuff and great writing. Ms. Alcott does a fabulous job of moving the story along and keeping us in suspense as to when Laurie will ask Jo to marry him (for Laurie fell for Jo first). Then we wonder if Jo will ever marry or just remain at home in service to her parents.
But the heart of this novel is the tender moments between the girls, the faith they have for God, and the love that emanates through the characters for others and their family. They all strive to be good “little women” and grow up to be like “Marmee” (Mrs. March) who is a strong woman with upstanding moral values and worldly advice. They strive to be more thoughtful and less selfish. They strive to overcome their faults such as a strong temper in Jo and a covetous nature in Meg. They fight but they always make up. Jo sells her hair for money for her mother to go and see Mr. March while he’s in the hospital. While Beth slips away, they surround her in love.
There is so many good quotes in this book it’s unbelievable. Great advice. Great God stuff. Here’s some of my favorites:
Mrs. March’s advice to Jo about controlling her temper:
“Watch and pray, dear; never get tired of trying; and never think it is impossible to conquer your fault.”
Mrs. March to Meg and Jo on marriage:
“I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected, to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman.”
Mrs. March to all of her daughters on the value of work:
“Take up your little burdens again; for though they seem heavy sometimes, they are good for us, and lighten as we learn to carry them. Work is wholesome, and there is plenty for every one; is good for health and spirits, and gives us a sense of power and independence better than money or fashion.”
Mrs. March on marriage:
“Each do our part alone in many things, but at home we work together, always.”
“Meg learned that a woman’s happiest kingdom is home, her highest honor the art of ruling it–not as a queen, but a wise wife and mother.”
“Jo recognized the beauty of her sister’s (Beth’s) life–uneventful, unambitious, yet full of the genuine virtues which ‘smell sweet, and blossom in the dust.”
At almost 500 pages, this took us 2 months to read, but it was so worth the time commitment. Originally published in 1868, this book is timeless in its simple depiction of how a home life should be and you are sure to glean some nugget of wisdom to apply to your life.
Excellent book. Full of faith and God. Great, feel-good story. Will leave a smile on your face. Guaranteed.