Ltosiello'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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it was amazing

Fabulous read on many levels. This book sets the new standard for scholarship about “Little Women."

For those of you living under a rock, let me start by saying that this year is the sesquicentennial celebration of “Little Women.” There’s been a new BBC adaptation, a modern retelling in a film directed by Clare Niederpruem, and a much anticipated movie starring Meryl Streep and Emma Stone, to be released next year. But none of this attention is as important to Alcott’s legacy as this book by Anne Boyd Rioux.
Rioux walks us through the genesis of “Little Women”, its phenomenal contemporary popularity, its cultural legacy, its impact on writers, feminists and generations of women.
I have already read it twice: the first time devouring it like a summer page-turner, tearing up over Rioux’s defense and manifesto of the importance of our cherished novel. The second time, I reveled in the pristine and dogged scholarship. I will admit that I am a pushover for books with indices and actual fact filled notes. One note, documenting a paragraph about the influence the novel had on women writers runs nearly a page and half itself. I believe I will be mining those notes for years to come, spending languid rainy afternoons tracking down articles such as Brophy’s “A Masterpiece and Dreadful”, Vincent’s “Subversive Miss Alcott”, Nachman’s “After Wuthering, What?” or Crawford’s “Of Sissies, Invalids and the Mysterious Boy in the Window.”
Like Alcott herself, our intrepid author Rioux is fiercely protective of the iconic novel, overtly feminist and only obliquely confrontational. She shines a light on themes such as the obliteration of the serious study of women writers because of the “male canon” espoused by academics, writers continuing identification with Jo March, the fluid gender roles in the relationship of Jo and Laurie and the continuing fierce debate surrounding the novel regarding conformity and capitulation to stereotypes versus independence outside gender norms.
Rioux sets out the arguments why “Little Women” continues to matter to readers, teachers, feminists and, importantly, men, because, she states “Little Women is one of the most valuable texts we have for helping readers….to think about complex isssues of identity formation and maturation and what role gender plays in them.”
For Alcott scholars, put it between your dog-eared Reisen and annotated Shealy and beloved Matteson. For Alcott fans, read it and rejoice that someone “gets” Little Women as much as you do and writes about it convincingly enough for those less uninitiated to understand, too. For educators, quote from it liberally, at faculty meetings where book lists and curricular choices are discussed.
I’m calling this book the new standard in “Little Women” scholarship, “The Mother of the Mother of all Girls Books.”
Read it! Devour it! Share it!
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
September 9, 2018 – Shelved

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