I didn’t read Little Women as a kid, instead I read it for the first time while I was working stage crew on the musical adaptation of the book as a freshman in high school. I remember more about the musical and my first experience in theater rather than anything about the book itself.
However, I fell in love with Little Women and Louisa May Alcott when I had the opportunity to take a major authors course focusing on Alcott’s life and works in the fall of 2018 from two of my absolute favorite professors at K-State, Anne Phillips and Greg Eiselein. We read many (not all) of Alcott’s works, and I fell in love with her wit and strong female characters.
That same semester while visiting Boston to decide if I wanted to attend Simmons University I had the chance to visit Concord and go to Orchard House, the Alcott family’s home where Louisa wrote part of Little Women and that is similar to the home where the March family lives in Little Women.
Now that I live in Boston for grad school and Greta Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation of Little Women was just nominated for Best Picture, it seemed an ideal time to return to Concord and Little Women.
I would have loved to also reread Little Women, but I’m currently working my way through a ridiculous number of books that I had on hold from the Boston Public Library and also reading for class, so it just wasn’t feasible if I actually wanted to write and publish this post in a timely manner.
A Literary Pilgramage
Thankfully, the MBTA offers $10 dollar weekend passes for the commuter rail, so it is neither difficult or expensive to get out of Boston and get to Concord. So, it was a day trip on a budget which is the best kind of day trip.
Of course, Orchard House is almost 1.5 miles from the Concord commuter rail station, so I had a little bit of a walk ahead of me and I took my time meandering through Downtown Concord.
My first stop of the day was at the Concord Free Public Library because I never can resist visiting a public library. The Concord Free Public Library is absolutely beautiful and features busts and statues of notable Concord writers, including Louisa May Alcott! There was also an incredible book statue outside along with an incredible children’s literature quilt hanging in the entry.
After leaving the library, and venturing back into the cold, I stopped in at Barrow Books, a used bookstore. If I had $250 to spend, I would have dropped it on a first edition of Jo’s Boys which is the third Little Women book and just as great a read as Little Women. The bookstore also had a really cool display of pirated UK versions of the second book of Little Women.
I popped in a few more shops along the way, but ultimately made my way to Orchard House where the people working were absolutely delightful. They asked if I had walked from the commuter rail station, and when I said yes they acknowledged that I must be a big fan and ran me upstairs to join a tour that had just started instead of having me wait 15 minutes for the next tour and telling me I could just pay afterwards.
Unfortunately, you can’t take photographs inside Orchard House, but it was just as fun to see the home this time around as it was over a year ago. Afterwards, I paid for my $10 student ticket and spent a little time shopping in the gift shop.
If I could have resisted walking away from souveniers, I could have spent only $20 on my trip to Concord (not counting food), but alas I am a weak woman and I picked up a pair of Louisa May Alcott socks and a copy of Rose in Bloom a followup to Alcott’s novel Eight Cousins. I loved reading Eight Cousins in my Alcott course and have had Rose in Bloom on my list for a while, so it seemed like the ideal time to bite the bullet and add it to my collection.
One thing I did on this visit to Concord that I didn’t do on my 2018 visit was walk to the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and visit Author’s Ridge where the Alcott’s family’s plot is located near those of Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. I loved the tributes to Alcott that people had left behind including pencils and a couple of roses.
It was just starting to snow as I left Concord, and it felt like the perfect end to a wintery pilgrimage to Concord.
Little Women (2019)
I would be remiss in my discussion and consideration of Little Women if I didn’t talk about the latest movie adaptation written and directed by Greta Gerwig starring (among others) Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, and Meryl Streep.
So, I spent my Martin Luther King Jr. day going to a matinee showing of Little Women (and grocery shopping like an adult). A matinee, of course, because this is Little Women done on a grad student’s budget when she doesn’t get paid for another week (although I did splurge on expensive popcorn).
I adored this movie the first time around when I saw it over Christmas break with my sisters, and I adored it just as much the second time around.
While I enjoyed Saoirse Ronan as Jo, I don’t think that she had the strongest performance in the movie–though I do applaud her Oscar nomination. Instead, I think Florence Pugh as Amy was the best performance in the film, and a large part of the reason that it feels like Amy has been redeemed in this film as compared to the book and other adaptations of the text.
I also absolutely adored Timothée Chalamet as Laurie. He’s such a beautiful, dynamic actor and I absolutely believed every line that came out of his mouth.
What Gerwig did with the film’s timeline and choosing to place more focus on the second part of Little Women, rather than the first, really worked for me. The scenes were interspersed beautifully (especially around Beth’s illness and death) that were just incredible. I was absorbed from the first frame to the moment the credits rolled.
All around, this film was 110% beautiful and I could see it again and again (and again) and not get tired of it.
More Little Women
If you’ve made it to this point in my post, you either love Little Women and Louisa May Alcott as much as I do or you love me and are willing to read my endless literary ramblings.
However, I couldn’t complete this post without sharing some suggestions for further reading (or viewing) for anyone who may want more Little Women in their lives.
The obvious place to start is with Little Men and Jo’s Boys the two followup novels to Little Women. These two books hold a special place in my heart because the way that Alcott writes about the antics of the boys at Plumfield reminds me of the antics of the boys I work with at camp.
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy is a modern day graphic novel adaptation of Little Women that I absolutely adored which makes some great changes to Alcott’s source material by increasing diversity and representation, but it also really only covers the first portion of Little Women.
The similarly titled Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why it Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux offers historical context for Little Women and traces its modern day successors. My favorite chapter of this book was about encouraging boys to read Little Women and other stories featuring female protagonists.
If you’re really into history, the biography Eden’s Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father traces Alcott’s relationship with her father and offers new depth to Alcott’s works and life. This was the first thing we read in the Alcott course, and it really set the stage for studying Alcott’s works.
There are too many articles that have been written about Greta Gerwig’s Little Women adaptation for me to possibly share all of them, but here are a sampling of my favorites!
Anne Phillips, my aforementioned delightful professor and Alcott expert, wrote Agency in Gerwig’s Little Women — but for whom? for the Oxford University Press blog.
Two Little Women Superfans Debate the New Movie’s Inception-Style Ending: This Slate article is a conversation between Marissa Martinelli and Heather Schwedel who discuss the end of Gerwig’s Little Women. I can’t say I agree whole heartedly with either of them, although I do love Martinelli’s mention of a want for a Gerwig directed Little Men.
How Greta Gerwig Built Her ‘Little Women’ This delightful New York Times article considers Gerwig’s influences outside of just the source text, including art, films, and literature. A delightful read if you’re looking for any Easter eggs the film has. The Atlantic and The Washington Post, respectively, consider Amy’s character in the articles Greta Gerwig’s Little Women Gives Amy March Her Due and Greta Gerwig’s ‘Little Women’ understands Amy March. And for a note of divisiveness I have to share the Slate article Amy Sucks which includes the delightful subtitle “Congratulations to Florence Pugh on her Oscar nomination. Amy is still the worst.”
Scriptnotes Podcast episode 433 – “The One with Greta Gerwig”: Gerwig discusses the Little Women screenplay with host John August by breaking down different scenes and discussing the adaptation’s non-linear timeline. I listed to this podcast episode while at work and listening to Gerwig’s insights on the film was fascinating.
Comparing Every Version of Little Women is an incredible youtube video breaking down differences (and similarities) in various film adaptations of Little Women including Gerwig’s 2019 adaptation. I’m not super familiar with other film adaptations of Little Women, so I enjoyed the details provided in this video.