|Winona Ryder plays Jo March in the 1994 film version of Little Women|
by Louisa May Alcott
I've known what photograph I was going to use to illustrate this book review: Winona Ryder playing "Jo March" in the 1994 film version of this immortal classic. Little Women is most certainly both a CLASSIC and a HIT- with all the modern meanings of those terms: plays, films, remakes, sequels, sales measured in hundreds of thousands, international media attention.
And while reading Little Women wasn't particularly fun, it's impossible not to admire the craft of what Louisa May Alcott put together and sold to an adoring public. On the surface, Little Women is a tale about four sisters growing up during and after the Civil War: three marry, one dies and the character of Jo is essentially the "main" sister.
The "adventures" such as they are closer to the era of Frances Burney and Ann Radcliffe than to Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, but Alcott had a supberb grasp of different literary idioms and manages to integrate literary devices that constitute an encyclopedia of 18th and 19th century Novelistic techniques. Alcott throws in epistolary dialogues, picaresque travelogues of exotic locations (Italy), a healthy dose of sentimental fiction, and a detailed description of quiet domesticity that track more closely to the proto-literary modernism of George Eliot. And it all added up to a huge, monster, gargantuan hit.
Did you know that Alcott wrote like seven sequels to Little Women? And that she never had another hit? And that people make another film or tv version every few years?