STARRED REVIEW
September 2018

The enduring, eternal appeal of the March sisters

By Anne Boyd Rioux

Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, first published in 1868, was an almost instantaneous success. Today it’s often considered a book for young girls, but in the years following its publication, men, women and children alike embraced the tale of the four March sisters.

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Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, first published in 1868, was an almost instantaneous success. Today it’s often considered a book for young girls, but in the years following its publication, men, women and children alike embraced the tale of the four March sisters. The girls’ roles in their family and paths to adulthood in many ways resembled the experiences of Alcott and her own three sisters. It’s a relatable story that continues to captivate modern audiences and writers like Jane Smiley, Anna Quindlen and Simone de Beauvoir. As Little Women marks its 150th anniversary, author and scholar Anne Boyd Rioux, a professor at the University of New Orleans and scholar of 19th-century literature, looks back at its inception and influence in Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters.

A passionate and serious writer, Alcott dreamed of literary success, but she didn’t imagine she would attain it with a children’s book. She wasn’t above writing for the sake of money, though, and so Alcott accepted her publisher’s request that she write a book for girls. This project would eventually become Little Women.

In the generations since its release, the book has been adapted for stage and film and has influenced children’s literature and produced literary heroines who follow in Jo March’s footsteps (Katniss Everdeen, anyone?). Little Women’s feminist undertones also continue to encourage readers to reimagine expectations for women and girls.

Rioux’s extensive research invites lifelong Little Women fans and new readers alike to dive deeply into the worlds of Alcott and the Marches. Along the way, they’ll uncover the novel’s inspiration and influence and grow to appreciate its ongoing significance, even 150 years later.

 

This article was originally published in the September 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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Get the Book

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy

By Anne Boyd Rioux
Norton
ISBN 9780393254730

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