Most books and movies combine Louisa May Alcott’s two stories – Little Women and Good Wives into one.
My first copy of the book, when I was about ten, did this. But a couple of years later, I realised that this book was abridged. The language was simplified and the chapters shortened. I was horrified – I suddenly felt like I’d missed half the story!
Mum had her childhood copies of Good Wives and Jo’s Boys, but not the other two books.
It became my mission in life to hunt down a full unabridged version of Little Women and Little Men.
A number of years ago I picked up an unabridged Folio Society copy of Little Women.
I have waited and waited for a Folio Society edition of all four books to be released. To no avail. This week I gave up and found these lovely paperback editions instead.
The covers were designed by ninataradesign.com and I love how they complement the stories inside so well. They also contain extra author and character information in the back.
Good Wives picks up the story of the March girls a few years after Brooke’s proposal to Meg. The March family is in a gentle flurry of wedding preparations. The girls are growing up and beginning to taste the joys and labours of independence.
Mr March always feels like a shadowy non-presence to me in this book. It makes me curious to know more about Alcott’s relationship with her own father – the story version suggests ambivalence at best.
It’s hard to remember how I felt when I read these books for the first time. I do remember being very upset for Jo that she missed out on the trip to Europe. I hadn’t forgotten (or really forgiven) Amy’s burning of Jo’s book, so her acceptance of the European trip just added another little growl of discontent at her character. Her childhood selfishness had turned into adult self-interest. Even, yes, as I acknowledged that Jo had done herself no favours in her treatment of her Aunts.
I was completely surprised by the whole Professor Bhaer thing when I was a child, but then romance of any kind was not something I looked for or expected. I didn’t want Meg to get married and I most certainly did not want Jo and Laurie to get married. It would have been like marrying your own brother!
I loved Jo’s time in New York. Her comments about needing to try her wings resonated me with even as a young child,
I feel restless and anxious to be seeing, doing and learning more than I am. I brood too much over my own small affairs, and I need stirring up.
That could so easily be my life’s refrain!
Good Wives is a more mature read than Little Women, reflecting the becoming-adult themes of the girls. It’s ripe with births, deaths and marriages. The natural joys and sorrows of lives well-lived.
Comings and goings and personal freedom versus familial duty are all explored by Alcott.
Gainful employment, purpose and sensibility rule the lives of the March family.
It’s hard not to admire these girls and to feel a better person for having walked a small way in their shoes. Their goodness may stick in your craw sometimes, but I was always able to put it down to the different times they lived in. Perhaps, if I had lived during that time, in that family, I too, could have been that good!
I am now planning to continue on with Little Men and Jo’s Boy’s throughout March. If you’d like to join me, just say so below in the comments.
Thank you to Suey, Kami and Jenni for hosting another fabulous readalong.
I can’t wait to see what classic they tackle next!