Louisa May Alcott's Little Women is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It's beautifully written and it flows very easily with the chapters being written almost as standalone short stories. I first read Little Women when I was about 11 and I still love it now I'm older. In fact it's one of my favourite books. I know it sometimes gets criticised for being sentimental and moralising but you know what? Sometimes it's just really nice to read something where characters actually grow and develop as people and learn from their mistakes, where virtue is rewarded, and where family members and friends fall out but forgive each other. Little Women is a classic and I'm hugely fond of it. It's charming, romantic, funny, moving, sad and lovely. The obvious love amongst the March family is really touching to read. What's also really interesting about the book is the fact that it's a semi-autobiographical story, with the four March sisters being based on Alcott and her real-life sisters. That's probably why all four of them - Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy - are such engaging, endearing and believable characters. They all have their own flaws and strengths. OK, maybe Beth isn't as believably flawed as the others but she still shows that even the quietest and shyest of people can make a deep impact on the people and world around them. And that's not down to her short life, it's down to her being so kind and gentle. Meg, Beth and Amy are all likeable in their own different ways but Jo is by far my favourite of the sisters. She's a fantastic heroine and is extremely likeable despite her faults. She's brave, passionate, clever, independent and strong. I can also relate to her more than the other sisters: I'm not as tomboyish as she is and I don't have her temper but I can definitely identify with her love of reading and hatred of housework. Aside from the sisters I also really love their next-door neighbour - the charming, funny, intelligent and passionate Laurie.
If I was just reviewing Little Women by itself it would definitely give it a 5/5 rating from me but I have to take Good Wives into account as well. I enjoy it less than its prequel, mainly because of my deep disappointment and frustration that Jo and Laurie don't end up marrying which I'd always hoped would happen. Oh, why couldn't Jo and Laurie have got married?! Laurie is a perfect match for Jo! They're alike in so many ways and they're best friends! Surely marrying your best friend is a good thing?! The fact that Jo and Laurie don't end up marrying has never felt just or right to me. Also no matter how many times I read Little Women I still can't warm to Professor Bhaer, no matter how hard I try. Usually I'd love a dark-haired, intellectual type with a deep love of books but Bhaer is just so... bland. And he's so much older than Jo. Laurie is a far more interesting and attractive character than Bhaer. And then there's the fact that Laurie ends up marrying Amy instead! No this is just so, so wrong! It feels as though Laurie is only settling for Amy because he can't have Jo and he sees Amy as being the next best thing - even though Jo and Amy have very different personalities : S
Having said that - apart from my issue with the Jo/Laurie plot - I love everything else about Little Women and it really is one of my favourite books! I think I know how those Erik/Christine shippers feel: they feel that Christine shouldn't have chosen Raoul but they love everything else about The Phantom of the Opera.