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I am absolutely torn as to how to rate this book.

On one part, I feel awful about giving it a BAD rating, because it is a classic novel with an impeccably clean story.

On the other hand, I can't bring myself to give it a GOOD rating, because the whole thing read like a Puritanical rant.

Therefore, I think I will go with a 2.5 out of 5 star rating.

I feel that Ms. Alcott said it best in the following quote: "'You said, mother, that criticism would help me; but how can it, when it's so contradictory that I don't know whether I've written a promising book or broken all the Ten Commandments?...This man says, "An exquisite book, full of truth, beauty, and earnestness; all is sweet, pure, and healthy"...The next, "The theory of the book is bad, full of morbid fantasies, spiritualistic ideas, and unnatural characters."'"

As this quote was found in Part 2 of the book, which was written some years after Part 1 was published, I can only assume that the quote itself reflects real criticism that Ms. Alcott received for Part 1 of Little Women and reiterate that "I couldn't have said it better myself."

Of course, all of this is coming from one who is long past childhood and young adulthood and therefore somewhat jaded in both spiritual and relationship matters, and as this book is basically the epitome of happy endings and moral tirades, I just could not bring myself to enjoy it as much as I may have 10-15 years ago.

"Meg's high-heeled slippers were very tight, and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo's nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable; but, dear me, let us be elegant or die!"

"Jo's ambition was to do something very splendid; what it was she had no idea, as yet, but left it for time to tell her; and, meanwhile, found her greatest affliction in the fact that she couldn't read, run, and ride as much as she liked. A quick temper, sharp tongue, and restless spirit were always getting her into scrapes, and her life was a series of ups and downs, which were both comic and pathetic."

"There were many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind."

"'What a pleasant life she might have, if she only chose. I don't envy her much, in spite of her money, for after all, rich people have about as many worries as poor ones, I think...'"

"...there was so much good will in Jo, it was impossible not to take her blunt speeches as kindly as they were meant."

"'How did you learn to keep still? That is what troubles me--for the sharp words fly out before I know what I'm about, and the more I say the worse I get, till it is a pleasure to hurt people's feelings, and say dreadful things.'
'I had a hard time, Jo, and shed a good many bitter tears over my failures; for, in spite of my efforts, I never seemed to get on. Then your father came, and I was so happy that I found it easy to be good.'"

"'Learn to know and value the praise which is worth having.'"

"'Yankees have a trick of being generous to their enemies...especially when they beat them.'"

"'I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle--something heroic or wonderful, that won't be forgotten after I'm dead. I don't know what, but I'm on the watch for it, and mean to astonish you all, someday. I think I shall write books, and get rich and famous, that would suit me, so that is my favorite dream.'"

"'I thought you'd be pleased.'
'At the idea of anybody coming to take Meg away? No, thank you.'
'You'll feel better about it when somebody comes to take you away.'"

"Some old people keep young at heart in spite of wrinkles and gray hairs, can sympathize with children's little cares adn joys, make them feel at home,a nd can hide wise lessons under pleasant plays, giving and receiving friendship in the sweetest way."

"'She feels it in the air--love, I mean--and she's going ver fast. She's got most of the symptoms--is twittery and cross, doesn't eat, lies awake, and mopes in corners.'"

"His tone was properly beseeching; but, stealing a shy look at him, Meg saw that his eyes were merry as well as tender, and that he wore the satisfied smile of one who had no doubt of his success. This nettled her; Annie Moffat's foolish lessons in coquetry came into her mind, and the love of power, which sleeps in the bosoms of the best of little women, woke up all of a sudden and took possession of her. She felt excited and strange, and, not knowing what else to do, followed a capricious impulse, and withdrawing her hands, said petulantly, 'I don't choose. Please go away and let me be!'"

"Aunt March possessed in perfection the art of rousing the spirit of opposition in the gentlest people, and enjoyed doing it. The best of us hav ea spice of perversity in us, especially when we are young and in love. If Aunt March had begged Meg to accept John Brooke, she would probably have declared she couldn't think of it; but as she was peremptorily ordered not to like him, she immediately made up her mind that she would."

"'You won't give anyone a chance...You won't show the soft side of your character, and if a fellow gets a peep at it by accident, and can't help showing that he likes it, you treat him as Mrs. Gummidge did her sweetheart--throw cold water over him--and get so thorny no one dares touch or look at you.'"

"She did not think herself a genius by any means; but when the writing fit came on, she gave herself up to it with entire abandon."

"'Why, girls, you needn't praise me so; I only did as I'd be done by. You laugh at me when I say I want to be a lady, but I mean a true gentlewoman in mind and manners, and I try to do it as far as I know how. I can't explain exactly, but I want to be above the little meannesses and follies and faults that spoil so many women. I'm far from it now, but I do my best, and hope in time to be what mother is.'"

"'Why, you know I don't mind hard jobs much, and there must always be one scrub in a family. Amy is spendid in fine works, and I'm not; but I feel in my element when all the carpets are to be taken up, or half the family fall sick at once. Amy is distinguishing herself abroad; but if anything is amiss at home, I'm your man.'"

"'I can't help it; you know it's impossible for people to make themselves love other people if they don't.'
'They do sometimes.'
'I don't believe it's the right sort of love, and I'd rather not try it,' was the decided answer."

"'Sit down and listen; for indeed I want to do right and make you happy,' she said, hoping to soothe him with a little reason, which proved that she knew nothing about love."

"'I don't believe I shall every marry. I'm happy as I am, and love my liberty too well to be in any hurry to give it up for any mortal man.'
'I know better!' broke in Laurie. 'You think so now; but there'll come a time when you will care for somebody, and you'll love him tremendously, and live and die for him. I know you will, it's your way...'
'Yes, I will live and die for him, if he ever comes and makes me love him in spite of myself, and you must do the best you can!' cried Jo..."

"'...talent isn't genius, and no amount of energy can make it so. I want to be great, or nothing. I won't be a commonplace dauber, so I don't intend to try anymore.'"
~this is possibly my favorite quote from the book, and I know WAY too many people who need to hear it and understand it and get on with their lives, as I did~

"Amy's lecture did Laurie good, though, of course, he did not own it till long afterwards; men seldom do, for when women are the advisers, the lords of creation don't take the advice till they have persuaded themselves that it is just what they intended to do; then they act up on it, and, if it succeeds, they give the weaker vessel half the credit of it; if it fails, they generously give her the whole."

"Laurie thought that the task of forgetting his love for Jo would absorb all his powers for years; but, to his great surprise, he discovered it grew easier every day. He refused to believe it at first, got angry with himself, and couldn't understand it; but these hearts of ours are curious and contrary things, and time and nature work their will in spite of us. Laurie's  heart wouldn't ache; the wound persisted in healing with a rapidity that astonished him, and, instead of trying to forget, he found himself trying to remember. He had not foreseen this turn of affairs, and was not prepared for it. He was disgusted with himself, surprised at his own fickleness, and full of a queer mixture of disappointment and relief that he would recover from such a tremendous blow so soon."

"His first wooing had been of the tempestuous order, and he looked back upon it as if through a long vista of years, with a feeling of compassion blended with regret. He was not ashamed of it, but put it away as one of the bittersweet experiences of his life, for which he could be grateful when the pain was over. His second wooing he resolved should be as calm and simple as possible; there was no need of having a scene..."

"'It is so beautiful to be loved as Laurie loves me...and it makes me so happy and so humble that I don't seem to be the same girl I was. I never knew how good and generous and tender he was till now, for he lets me read his heart, and I find it full of noble impulses and hopes and purposes, and am so proud to know it's mine...I...try to be all he believes me, for I love my gallant captain with all my heart and soul and might, and never will desert him, while God lets us be together...I never knew how much like heaven this world could be, when two people love and live for one another!'"
~all I can even say here is :o) :o) :o) ~

"'...marriage, they say, halves one's rights and doubles one's duties.'"

"'...She is the sort of woman who knows how to rule well; in fact, I rather like it, for she winds one round her finger as softly and prettily as a skein of silk, and makes you feel as if she was doing you a favor all the while.'"

"Dreams of a future never found,
Memories of a past still sweet;
Half-writ poems, stories wild,
April letters, warm and cold,
Diaries of a willful child,
Hints of a woman early old;

A woman in a lonely home,
Hearing, like a sad refrain--
'Be worthy, love, and love will come,'
In the falling summer rain."


Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
burly_curly
Mar. 23rd, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
I know what you mean. I have this secret love for "Rose in Bloom," the Alcott sequel to "Eight Cousins." I read the sequel first, and then went back to Eight Cousins. They are both horribly altruistic, Puritanical, and unrealistically pleasant, the kind of pleasant that grates horribly against my Post-Modern Pessimistic outlook. Not to mention, marrying cousins? Not a good idea anymore.

But I can't stop loving the adorable love affairs that go on between the boys and girls in "Rose in Bloom." The silent one who loves the maid. The bad one that loves the good girl and dies tragically for it. The good and serious, but a little strange one that finally realizes his love for the good girl. The good girl becomes a "philanthropist" as a career, she adopts a child while still unwed, we raise a maid to be one of our own, and STILL I love it.

They make friends with some Indian immigrant, and there is no racism or hostility, but for some reason he likes chubby women. The stereotype is lost on me.

"Eight Cousins" killed me with the unrealistic portrayal of children, and absolutely no conflict. But "Rose in Bloom" , which is the same plus love stories, I moon over and pick up every once in a while. Perhaps I am a little insane?
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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