Three years on from Little Women, the March girls and their friend Laurie are young adults with their futures ahead of them. Although they all face painful trials along the way - from Meg's sad lesson in housekeeping to Laurie's disappointment in love and a tragedy which touches them all - each of the girls finally finds happiness, if not always in the way they expect.
Comment: I've recently purchased this book at a book fair and, unlike my usual tactic, decided to get to it right away.
This is the sequel to Little Women, one of the author's most famous work. In that book readers followed the childhood and young years of the four March sisters, which are clearly based on the author's own family. Although seen as literature for children or young adults, the book is cherished by all and now, in this Good Wives, the author has taken the story a step further, letting us know what happened some time later, as the sisters are all a few years older, and at an age where they can become wives and mothers. In a constantly clever and witty style the author takes us on some of the lessons the sisters must learn and some experiences they must endure as they become adults...
I barely remember Little Women as I have said, but this second volume, Good Wives, is a very concise and simple story, especially in how we are told about what is happening. The subtlety is in little things and often in the advise given by mrs March to her daughters. The plot isn't complicated, not detailed in a way contemporary stories often seem to be, but it's still quite pertinent to how one's behavior must be like.
The several chapter of this book are all more or less dedicated to one daughter in particular, although the most appealing element in this whole universe is precisely how close the sisters are and how much they love one another, supporting each other in ways so many contemporary families tend to not do. I don't think it's any surprise to know the intention of the author was clearly to highlight the importance and need of a strong family base and how certain rules should be obeyed so that their lives would run smoothly.
The author wrote about a reality she knew, about a time and society she felt was the correct one and of course this might feel outdated by current notions. There is a strong defense of family life, of women maintaining the peace by not making waves at home, by doing what is proper and what isn't sinful, even if these words aren't the ones being used. I can see how this might not be appreciated by a contemporary reader but, if one thinks of this book by its time, it can just like any other classic, even if the content feels condescending and infuriating for the role women played then.
This aside, to me the book wasn't as great because the writing style, while witty and clever, was also rather minimalist. Of course several aspects of the girl's lives are minimized, are treated as simple and quick when it certainly wasn't so. I suppose the idea was to just give an example of how their lives went, but while it was enough to let us understand their personalities and little rebel acts (for they were lucky in having a supporting family nonetheless), I still feel we were only given the quick facts and they weren't as developed as, for instance, the movie even suggested.
In terms of plot, I kind of expected what happened, and the book does have the positive side of offering a more nuanced reading to the characters' actions, which the movie certainly romanticized with a different emphasis. I mean to say that in the movie it was as if the characters were led to only one or two choices in what they did, but the book of course presents things in a different way and certain options - yes I'm particularly thinking of Jo and Laurie's relationship - do feel much better explained or sustained than in how the movie intends us to think of this.
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