Rebecca's Reviews > Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux
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(See my Literary Hub article on rereading Little Women in its 150th anniversary year and watching the new BBC/PBS miniseries adaptation.) Rioux’s book unearths Little Women’s origins in Alcott family history, but also traces its influence through to the present day. Multiple generations of heroines, she believes, “owe an obvious debt to Alcott’s pathbreaking portrayal of a spunky young heroine with a literary bent”—everyone from Anne Shirley in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series to Hermione in the Harry Potter books. Rioux also compares the dozens of Little Women adaptations, ranging from silent films to an opera and a Broadway musical.

She also makes a strong feminist case for Little Women as the first female Bildungsroman –
a “paradigmatic book about growing up”;

“the most widely beloved story of girlhood”;

“arguably the most influential book ever written by an American woman”;

& “a cultural phenomenon that knew no boundaries of age, gender, or class.”

It also “passes the Bechdel test with flying colors,” but is by no means simply a girls’ book. I especially enjoyed the biographical material about Alcott – it’s easy to see where much of the inspiration for Little Women came from – and the discussion of the influence her work has had on future generations of women writers.

The debate on whether Little Women represents “realism or sentimentality” has been raging for decades, and this book is unlikely to change a made-up mind, but it may encourage you to pick up Alcott’s work again, as I did earlier this year, and try to appreciate it afresh. (Rioux’s most controversial theory is that (view spoiler).) Releases August 21st.
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Reading Progress

December 18, 2017 – Shelved
December 18, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
December 18, 2017 – Shelved as: bibliophiles-delight
December 18, 2017 – Shelved as: writers-and-writing
December 18, 2017 – Shelved as: offered-by-publisher-author
December 18, 2017 – Shelved as: binders
February 15, 2018 – Shelved as: victorian-studies
February 22, 2018 – Shelved as: read-via-edelweiss
March 12, 2018 – Started Reading
March 12, 2018 – Shelved as: history
March 30, 2018 – Finished Reading
May 16, 2018 – Shelved as: lit-hub-article

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