How do I love thee: 14 novel declarations of love

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For all who are beloved. Hope these are helpful this coming Valentines’ Day as you plan surprises for loved ones! (For those who haven’t yet read Little Women or the Courtship of Jo March, I haven’t made a note of who said these lines to whom so as not to spoil the stories :))  Continue reading

All Little Women means to me

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How a book comes to take such a shape of significance in anyone’s life does so slowly – almost like it does because one doesn’t expect it to… Because we read it, we made different choices. We saw the world differently. And we lived a different life to one we otherwise might have. For me, Little Women was one of those books. Continue reading

Little Women and “the answer to every question”

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It’s one of my favorite movie conversations. The one in You’ve Got Mail where Joe Fox adamantly tells Kathleen Kelly that “the Godfather is the answer to every question.” I will now brazenly make the same claim of Little Women . Continue reading

The man for Jo March: Theodore Laurence, Friedrich Bhaer, or…

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In The Courtship of Jo March, does Mr Bhaer ever come into the picture? Do Laurie and Jo’s marriage end up as dramatic as their friendship? Etain, A Homeschooling Life Continue reading

The confessions of Jo and Laurie in the Little Women sequels

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Did Friedrich Bhaer replace Theodore Laurence as Jo March’s dearest friend? Or did Jo and Laurie retain that irresistible connection in the Little Women sequels… Continue reading

The best of times on the best of budgets: in the footsteps of the March sisters

By Trix Wilkins

Photo by Richard Croft, courtesy of Wikipedia

One of the things I’ve learned from Little Women is the right company and a bit of innovation go a long way! These are my favorite ideas from Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic – fun for anyone, anytime, on a “Little Women” budget…

Set up a “refuge”

And just like Jo, make your own writing hat while you’re at it, so that your family and friends know just when your genius is burning and you’re not to be disturbed. Write a book, poetry about your favorite sister, tales of “high adventure.” Fit it out to be a place for any endeavour of your passion and choosing whether music, woodwork, painting, etc.

Run a secret acting society

Perform the classics or your own plays (or your variation of the classics ;)), go ‘hunting for treasure,’ and make your own costumes from said treasure. Between rehearsals practice sword fighting with your closest friend dressed in boots and a doublet you fashioned yourself a la Jo March.

Start your own secret newspaper named after your favorite author, and adopt pseudonyms just like “real writers”

The March sisters wrote stories, recipes, and short notices for their family newspaper The Pickwick Portfolio. Pepper your paper with outlandish stories, lavish art and creative classifieds.

Take your indoor hobbies/chores outside

Find somewhere with a view and recruit your nearest and dearest into what you call a “secret busy bee society” to lend the venture an air of mystery. Whether it’s pairing socks or doing taxes (or the ultimate luxury – a hobby you actually enjoy!), it’s less tedious in lovely surroundings and friendly company.

Set up a secret post box through which anything goes

Yes, there is a theme: Little Women was big on secrets! As a gesture of appreciation for being admitted into the Pickwick Club, Laurie gifted the Marches with a post box through which passed, amongst love letters, “tragedies and cravats, music and gingerbread, scoldings and puppies.”

Host a dinner party with an adventurous menu

By adventurous, I mean like Jo: cook dishes you’ve never made before (maybe even some you have never seen prepared before by anyone eg: lobster salad). All passion, instinct and thrill at the prospect of serving who-knows-what to your family and closest friends.

Make a habit of doing something to benefit others

Send flowers to deserving women who love them but can’t afford them (Laurie), visit sick neighbors (Jo), bring food and gifts to poorer families (Beth), write notes of encouragement to those you know who have been working and striving tirelessly with little praise (Mrs March).

What are some fun ideas you’ve picked up (and/or ever taken on!) from reading Little Women?

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Why some of us still wish it had been Jo and Laurie

By Trix Wilkins

Photo of 1870s printing of Little Women courtesy of Wikipedia

Louisa May Alcott chose Friedrich Bhaer for Jo March in Little Women, and for many readers he is the perfect fit – a learned, mature professor who spurs her to write from the heart. Then why do some wish Alcott had written a marriage between Jo and her best friend Laurie instead? Surely it’s got to be more than the fact Christian Bale played Laurie in 1994…I suspect it’s to do with the stories we grew up with and learned to love.

We love the Cinderella concept

Jo is the girl next door who is not really recognized for her full worth and potential by wider society in general. She has the love and appreciation of her family, but not that of anyone else; she’s awkward and has no close female friends apart from her sisters. She is poor, it is implied she is largely unschooled though she is a voracious reader, and we are told she has no outward beauty to speak of (apart from her hair).

Then she meets Laurie, the boy next door – not only is he incomparably wealthy (think Prince Charming, with the added romance of his being an orphan born of parents who married and died sort of Romeo-Juliet style), he is also thoughtful, generous, and immediately befriends Jo, instantly preferring her company to any other. He doesn’t see her as a “diamond in the rough” whose rough edges need polishing – he sees her as a diamond.

We love the idea of “it just so happened…”

Best friends marrying is a bit of an irresistible combination. There’s innocence underpinning the relationship. There’s no set up. There’s no motive to become rich through marriage (a thing Alcott implies was more the norm than the exception, in those days), no exploiting for personal gain. Though both had been curious about the other by virtue of their being neighbors, Jo and Laurie didn’t intend to become such good friends.

It just so happened that Beth’s cat ran away next door. And Jo could hardly help who the Gardiners invited to their New Year’s Eve party – nor could she have known that Meg’s instruction to hide her burned dress would end up with her running into Laurie behind a curtain. The friendship started without any thought of ‘sentimental nonsense’ – they simply spent time together, got to know each other, and were there for each other during both the hard and the joyful times.

We love the “girl fixes guy” routine

When Laurie realizes he loves Jo and that he’s “not half good enough,” he studies hard and graduates with honors. He pulled up his socks for his girl, and we expect Jo will love him for it. She does, but not in the way he wants. So she refuses him. At this point, we are expecting Fitzwilliam Darcy (maybe that’s just because I read Austen first, but yes. I expected Darcy), that Laurie will think, “OK, she doesn’t love me now in that way, but I’ll do something that will make me absolutely irresistible to her.”

We like the idea of a guy chasing a girl and becoming a better man in the process. That’s why when Laurie doesn’t – in fact his character takes a dive, he runs off to fritter away his talent and money, before marrying Jo’s beautiful younger sister Amy – it’s such a bitter pill to swallow.

We love the “one in a million”

If we wanted to know about a relationship that consisted of a talented rich good looking guy with a flirtatious young beautiful girl, we’d just step outside the door, go to school/uni/work/the local restaurant, and see it. We probably have friends in this sort of relationship. We might even be in this sort of relationship.

But our favorite stories aren’t about the things we see every day everywhere – they’re about the things that are one in a million. They’re about people who don’t do what is easy or convenient, “the way things have always been,” “the way everyone does it.” They’re about bucking the odds, the smallest chance of success yet the determination to try anyway (eg: Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Marvel franchise…). They’re about the exception – exceptional character, exceptional circumstances, exceptional choices.

And for many readers – Theodore Laurence patiently and persistently courting Jo March until she came to love him would have been the exceptional choice.

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