Of all the very many books that enlightened my childhood and adolescence I think Little Women is my favourite. It’s on my Kindle and I revisit it from time to time. I had my Mum’s copy, a nice fat hardback book with thick paper – a pre-war edition I imagine.
I am fascinated by the fact that I have never asked anyone who their favourite sister was without the answer being Jo. Do all women like her best or does it reflect the sort of people I discuss books with?! I loved her as a child – independent, a bit of a tomboy, willing to make different choices and to sacrifice for her family. She also likes reading and writing both of which are activities that nurture me. I am sure many of us read who we are or who we want to be into our heroines if I hold up a mirror to Jo I see quite a lot of what I wanted to be.
One of my favourite Friends episodes (Series 3.13) is where Joey is reading the book and cries when Beth dies and when he asks Rachel how little the women are – scary little! One of my greatest joys is reading a book for the first time when I don’t know what is going to happen and seeing the story unfold. Despite that I still enjoy reading the book and seeing the films.
I won’t critique the other sisters as I am spending a lot of time thinking about different but equal and valuing in others qualities I lack. I am also writing this on the day (19th November) of the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address and Little Women is set at the time of the Civil War. Lincoln spoke about all being created equal (missing out the word men as it grates!) and that underpinning the foundation of the USA and how important it was that soldiers had not died in vain. I don’t want to say that Jo is more equal than others – Animal Farm is another significant novel for me!
Reading Little Women almost feels like a step on my formation journey I learnt lessons from life as I could resonate with the characters. It is one of the reasons I sometimes lament the lack of stories of women in the Bible personally it is easier for me to identify with a woman and see something of my experience in hers.
I have been editing a chapter on identity development today written by a woman, perhaps that is what sparked this memory. But as I wonder this Wednesday about other things that have shaped me I am grateful for Jo.