Cover image for Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy [large print] : the story of Little Women and why it still matters / Anne Boyd Rioux.
Title:
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy [large print] : the story of Little Women and why it still matters / Anne Boyd Rioux.
ISBN:
9781432857479
Edition:
Large print edition.
Publication Information:
Waterville, Maine : Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2018.

©2018
Physical Description:
469 pages (large print) : illustrations ; 23 cm
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Summary

Summary

On its 150th anniversary, rediscover the story of the beloved classic that captured the imaginations of generations. Anne Boyd Rioux shows why Little Women remains such a powerful book that people carry its characters and spirit throughout their lives.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

To coincide with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women, Rioux (Constance Fenimore Woolson: Portrait of a Lady Novelist) offers a solid and well-illustrated history of the novel's publication, reception, and adaptations. Rioux lays out biographical background on author Louisa May Alcott and traces her unlikely move from gothic potboiler author to girls' literature phenom as a result of the book's wild popularity. Rioux also examines the novel's many stage and screen adaptations, argues it is as appropriate for boys as girls (a section that could be condensed), and discusses contemporary YA fiction directly influenced by this seminal work. In one section, Rioux explores the many women writers, from Susan Sontag to J.K. Rowling, inspired by the example of Jo March, one of the only early literary models of female authorship. She also successfully highlights important points in Little Women's history, such as the publisher's altered 1880 edition (still commonly read) that cleans up Alcott's lively slang. Throughout, Rioux offers enough detail to entertain and inform without overwhelming the reader. While she notes the novel's readership has fallen off in recent years, one hopes her well-crafted work will help revive interest in a work she rightfully argues should be placed beside Tom Sawyer as an enduring American classic. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

ONE REASON I learned to read was so that I could understand "hard books" like "Little Women," which was read aloud to me as a preliterate child. I remember Louisa May AIcott's heroines - the March sisters - more vividly than some real people I dimly recall from those years. Now Anne Boyd Rioux's lively and informative "Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy" makes it clear why having these fictive young women implanted in my consciousness has been a good thing, helpful for every girl facing the challenges of growing up to be a woman. Rioux's book features a useful, highly compressed biography of Alcott and an account of how her most famous novel was written. Like Charlotte Bronte, Alcott was obliged to support a household. Her father, Bronson Alcott, a friend of Emerson and Thoreau and the founder of Fruitlands, a short-lived utopian community, was so focused on leading "a spotless spiritual life" that he'd forget he had a family. His periods of instability, his delusions and his refusal (or inability) to earn a living meant that the Alcotts moved often and were frequently separated. Yet Bronson recognized and nurtured his daughter's gifts. Louisa was publishing stories at 20, and, after serving as a Union nurse in the Civil War, she began to write novels. Reluctant when her publisher asked for a book about girls, she told a friend, "I could not write a girls' story, knowing little about any but my own sisters & always preferring boys." But she persevered, and when "Little Women" was published 150 years ago, in September 1868, 2,000 copies were sold in two weeks. The book has never gone out of print, and has appeared in hundreds of editions and dozens of foreign translations. A chapter on the adaptations of the novel - for radio, stage and screen - is a compendium of fun facts, much of it about casting. It's pleasant to imagine how liberating it was for Katharine Hepburn to play Jo March as a full-on tomboy in George Cukor's 1933 film. Other roles were less successfully cast, a problem that would persist in films that valued star power over fidelity to the novel. In the 1933 film, "Amy, who is supposed to be 12 years old, was played by 23-year-old and secretly pregnant Joan Bennett. When she could no longer hide her condition, her costumes had to be altered. ... Douglass Montgomery makes a much-too-polished Laurie, who is supposed to be 15; Montgomery was 26 and looked 30." Rioux, a professor at the University of New Orleans, tracks the literary works that owe a debt to Alcott: "Just as Hemingway claimed that all of American literature (by men) came from 'Huck Finn,' we can also say that much of American women's literature has come from 'Little Women.'" She considers the debate about "whether 'Little Women' tips toward realism or sentimentalism" and the ways in which feminists have praised - and critiqued - the novel for its (cramped or expansive) view of female experience. Ultimately, she argues for the positive influence exerted by the book and in particular by the character of Jo, who chooses the life of the mind over the lure of privilege, pretty clothes and boys. More recently the book's readership has declined, and it's only rarely taught in schools, where, Rioux suggests, many educators believe that requiring a boy to read a book with "women" in the title will forever turn him against reading. "Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy" does what - ideally - books about books can do: I've taken "Little Women" down from the shelf and put it on top of the books I plan to read. I'm curious to check in on the March sisters, and - inspired by Anne Boyd Rioux - find out how they seem to me now. FRANCINE prose's most recent book is an essay collection, "What to Read and Why."


Library Journal Review

Rioux (English, Univ. of New Orleans; Constance Fenimore Woolson) commemorates the 150th anniversary of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women with this volume examining the novel's enduring influence. Providing a brief biography of Alcott (1832-88), who faced many hardships yet also saw fame and fortune owing to the work's immediate popularity, Rioux reports ten million copies of the book sold globally since 1868. Moreover, the story has inspired three motion pictures, a play, radio broadcasts, numerous television miniseries, a musical, and an opera, with a new miniseries and film release coming this year. Yet despite its success, critics (especially in the 20th century) have often dismissed the work and schools have ceased teaching what Rioux considers "a core text in the development of feminist literary criticism." Nevertheless, Little Women continues to influence writers and popular media such as television's Gilmore Girls, supporting Rioux's argument for the book to be taught more regularly as it continues to challenge readers. -VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers interested in Alcott and her masterpiece's legacy.-Erica Swenson Danowitz, Delaware Cty. -Community Coll. Lib., Media, PA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.