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March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  183 ratings  ·  43 reviews
On its 150th anniversary, four acclaimed authors offer personal reflections on their lifelong engagement with Louisa May Alcott's classic novel of girlhood and growing up.

For the 150th anniversary of the publication of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley explore their strong lifelong personal engagement with
Kindle Edition, 196 pages
Published August 27th 2019 by Library of America
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Aug 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
I actually enjoyed the essays on Meg and Amy the most, which I didn’t expect. They felt the most reflective of the characters. I thought of Meg a little differently afterwards, and the Amy essay seemed like a very well planned out analysis. The Jo and Beth essays felt more like the authors telling their own stories and trying force a connection to the characters. I didn’t feel like anything made me think differently or more deeply about Jo and Beth, and I had high hopes for the Jo essay.

All of the authors in this collection read Little Women as children, and each of them wrote an essay about one of the four March sisters. All were interesting, but my favorite was the essay on Amy, written by Jane Smiley, one of my favorite authors. This was an enjoyable and quick read, and if you loved Little Women, you will like this book.
Sep 06, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
3.5 stars.

This was fine, but I'm not sure it will stick with me. I much preferred Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters.
Aug 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Such great insight into one of our most beloved classics! Now I feel like rereading Little Women.
Nov 12, 2019 rated it liked it
Worth reading for Jane Smiley’s take on Amy :) she’s been redeemed / re-envisioned / acknowledged and seen.
June Schwarz
Oct 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
Three stars each for the “Meg” and “Jo” essays. Minus two stars for the “Beth” and minus three for “Amy” and a star for the idea of the book in the first place = two stars.

I still loathe, loathe, loathe Jame Smiley. LOATHE.
Scout Maria
May 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
All four essays were quite different, and quite good. Each brought quite a personal touch to the discussion of one of the March sisters, comparisons with the author's own lives from larger things like a whole upbringing, to smaller things like choosing a single dress to wear to an awkward social function.

Got some nice kicks of nostalgia just from remembering Little Women itself, and it was interesting to learn about Louisa May Alcott's life, which I didn't know much about before, besides the
Oct 28, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This short collection consists of four personal essays. Primarily memoir blended with literary response, each essay takes one of the fictional March sisters as a point of inspiration to make contemporary 21st century connections to the 19th century novel . Each of the essays approaches the book with renewed insight in adulthood, contrasting with the author's youthful conceptions of the story and its characters. Each interpretation of the novel is strongly influenced by the author's personal life ...more
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will start by saying that Little Women is one of my favorite books, has been since I was a girl. So obviously I was thrilled to learn about March Sisters!
I immensely enjoyed this book!
The four essays are well written, although quite different from each other as a whole they are profound, heartfelt, and amusing. I loved how each writer drew on her own personal connections with Louisa May Alcott's classic. Each taking on a different March sister and reflecting on moments throughout the book
Bethany Long
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book utterly fascinated me. I am a long time fan and advocate of “Little Women.” In fact, I consider it one of the top three most influential books in my life. However, I’ve been kind of questioning how relevant it will continue to be as I grow older and in more modern times. This book out those fears to rest. All of these women are excellent writers (obviously) and each approaches their mission in this book so differently. I think my favorite essay was the one on Meg because I thought it ...more
MaryJo Hansen
Nov 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Four essays by different authors about each one of the sisters in Little Women. I admit I have not read the Alcott book in a very long time but have have seen all of the movies--and there is another one coming out soon directed by Greta Gerwig!
My favorite sister was always Amy and the essay by Jane Smiley makes the case for her being the smartest one of the sisters who knew what she wanted and how to get it. I mean she did marry Laurie, pursued an art career and had a baby--so there is a case to
Oct 10, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the essay on Amy the most; it was the closest to what I expected out of this book, which is to say it was a loving analysis of the character that provided lots of warm insights. Beth's essay comes in second, although a little too cerebral for me. Meg's and Jo's essays were at a disconnect with the other two - they were more self-focused on the authors' part and connected their own lives to those of the characters, and I liked them less. My biggest complaint of all was that the essay on ...more
Nov 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is a collection of essays on the infamous March Sisters. I enjoyed all of them but I have to say that the most revealing (at least from my perspective) was the one on Joe by Jenny Zhang. In any case, I think that I share many characteristics with Amy and Meg as well and it was really interesting to see how Alcott's characters can impact modern women in different ways. A really well-researched and poignant book by four incredibly talented writers, which I can recommend to everyone who's ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Each of the four essays in this collection looks at a different March sister (Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy). At their best, the essays offer new insights into Louisa May Alcott and her characters, and tie those insights to the experiences of the essays' authors. At times, this leads to astute and thought-provoking commentary on the experience of being a woman during Alcott's time and today. I found the essays to be a little uneven- while I loved the Meg essay, I was less absorbed by the others. A good ...more
Lili Kim
Sep 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Loved knowing more about Lousia May Alcott (never knew all of this!!)-I think I just didn't understand when I read this as a child! I need to read it again as an adult :D

I liked Amy's story the best, maybe it's because I identify with her the most now? I'd say I was Jo back in the day, but who knows? I'm in need of further analysis...

Anyways, notable lines:

"I don't know how I would have turned out if I'd let my mother keep shaping my narrative. After all, Lizzie's family had a narrative about
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2019, 4-stars
So difficult to rate overall!!!

MEG'S SHOCK FROCK: 2 stars, dragging pace and bored me.
DOES GENIUS BURN, JO?: 5 stars!!! I'm obsessed with Jenny Zhang's writing style now and I can't wait to hunt out more of her writing!
A DEAR AND NOTHING ELSE: 4 stars! V. good.
I AM YOUR "PRUDENT AMY": 3 stars. Fine. Made me think about Amy in a slightly different light but still agree with Carmen Maria Machado that "Jo should have let Amy drown".

Overall, a really quick read that was perfect for my
Taylor McCafferty
This book was thought-provoking and insightful and here's the real kicker... I've never read "Little Women" and I still found this a five-star read. Each essay is written with a perfect mix of introspection, historical detail, and literary detail to engage fans and avid readers of the book as well as non-readers who have always been curious about it, like me. I left the book gratified that I now know more than the basics about the book and am motivated to finally dive into its pages.

Katrina Hail
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Perceptive and deep this collection of essays explores the book that shaped a large female population's childhood. I never realized how much Little women speaks to our darkest and most noble sides until reading it through the eyes of these strong female authors! A great read if you love the classic or love being a strong woman!
Cheryl Rowland
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book wasn't I thought it would be. I know that Jo is the major character in "Lttle Women", but was a little disappointed that three of the four authors seem to always bringing Jo into the description of the March sister they are writing about (of course, Jenny Zhang is excused because she is actually writing about Jo). By far, my favorite was Jane Smiley's on Amy.
Sep 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. To continue on my Little Women train! This essay collection is short but packs a lot in. I enjoyed them all, but I think the Beth essay by Carmen Maria Machado is my favorite - Machado so thoughtfully and fully explores the limits of Beth's invalid portrayal, her angelic personality, and the comparison to her real-life counterpart, Lizzie. Recommended.
Nov 18, 2019 rated it liked it
I haven't read Little Women, for some reason it never made it into my hands in the way that it did for these authors as a you g reader. I wanted to read this collection for Carmen Maria Machado's essay, and it was my favorite one of the four.

Although this book has convinced me to give Little Woman a try now, as an adult. So that's a win? Right?
Picture  Perfect
Nov 10, 2019 rated it liked it
If I hadn't already known Alcott's story and how it relates to Little Women, I might have enjoyed this one more. Personally, I found this collection to add little to the Little Women analysis. The Jo and Beth's essays were my favorites because the authors contributed their stories and how they related to the characters.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This was enjoyable in much the same was as "Little Women" itself - there is a lot of review of various scenes from the book giving the reader that feeling of reminiscing about old friends. There are four essays in the book, one focused on each of the March sisters, and only one from an author with whom I was familiar. The others I will have to look up some of their other work.
Nov 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four March sisters, four essays. I thought the essays on Meg, Jo, and Beth were stellar. Amy's was the weakest, sadly. The book inspired me to know more about the actual Alcott family, because Lizzie, the inspiration for Beth, was so much more interesting than Beth herself, based on the essay in this book. I very much wonder what her version of Little Women would have looked like.
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Four well-written, insightful and easy to follow essays looking at each of the March sisters. I enjoyed this as it both captured my feelings towards Little Women and the March sisters whilst also making me look at each sister in a different way. It is also an interesting exploration of how our experiences of a book can change depending on which stage of life we read it at.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Four essays, each written by a prominent, current feminist author about each of the characters in the Alcott classic. The book Little Women had a special place in each author’s life and each writer approached her designated character in her own way. I’m ready to go back a read Little Women again; I’m sure it will be a different book from the one read by my 10-year old self.
Vikki VanSickle
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Insightful, modern, and entertaining essays by 4 fantastic writers who each tackle one of the famous March sisters in essays that are are part memoir, part cultural and academic study. Must-read for fans of Little Women.
Hillary Copsey
Sep 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
I loved Smiley's essay on Amy, who she presents as the most modern of the March sisters. (And I agree with that assessment.) The other essays were fine, but I didn't feel like they gave me anything new about Alcott or Little Women.
Lorri Steinbacher
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you're a Little Women fan you will enjoy these hot takes on each of the sisters. I liked all of them, but frankly you will never be able to sell me on Amy being the most maligned and enlightened of all the sisters.

See if Bolick, Zhang, Machado, or Smiley will change your mind.
Nov 16, 2019 added it
Shelves: 2019
Full disclosure- I did not finish Jane Smiley's essay, which is a meditation on motherhood and what SHE would do if Amy were her child, which I found extremely boring. The other three are fine, nothing earth shattering.
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Kate Bolick is a contributing editor for The Atlantic, freelance writer for ELLE, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal (among other publications), and host of "Touchstones at The Mount," an annual literary interview series at Edith Wharton's country estate, in Lenox, MA. Previously, she was executive editor of Domino, and a columnist for The Boston Globe Ideas Section.

Bolick has