Chasing Amy March

Whether you’ve already seen Greta Gerwig’s new Little Women movie, or you’re still planning to, I promise: No real spoilers here. Of course, the book has been out for about a century and a half, there have been multiple previous film versions, and if you weren’t exposed to the general storyline through those, you probably saw the Friends episode where Rachel spills the beans about one sister’s fate to a devastated Joey.

At the end of second grade, my teacher Miss Mitchell gifted me with a copy of Little Women. It was the biggest, longest book I’d ever seen, and I thought it was beautiful. It was my very first “grown-up” book, and I was so proud that, for some reason, Miss Mitchell had given such an amazing present to me. She said she was sure I’d enjoy it. This isn’t the actual copy (it’s somewhere in a box in my basement, I think), but it’s the same edition, with the cover and illustrations I fondly remember:

Before my first mystery for grown-ups was published, when I’d just joined Twitter, I won a contest with this Tweet in response to a bookstore giveaway promotion. (Note that I may have been the only person who responded):

Anyway, Miss Mitchell was right. I adored the book, even though many parts of it went straight over my 7-year-old head. (I never have figured out what Hannah meant by the term “cherry-bounce” in regard to the carriage hired for Amy’s disastrous party.) But I got the general idea. And of the four sisters, my favorite was Amy. I even brought lemons (limes were too sour) to school to hide in my desk and eat during class. Although they were discovered, I did not have to throw them out the window.

That’s okay, you can all give me the eyeroll through cyberspace. I’ll wait. I’m used to people who gaze at me aghast when I claim allegiance to whiny, bratty, sometimes selfish lesser characters. You can read my earlier ode on Chicks to Nancy Drew’s oft-maligned sidekick Bess Marvin here: https://chicksonthecase.com/2016/10/03/bess-marvin-lives-again/

Just for sentimental reasons, here’s a pic of my beloved “Little Women” Madame Alexander dolls. I’m sorry Beth is missing. She must be in the same box with the lost book. I didn’t play as much with her, because Beth was fragile. Meg and Jo have seen better days (I never owned Marmee). But I was always very careful that Amy stayed poised and well-groomed:

I always knew I’d be a writer, like Jo. Why, then, did I love Amy’s character best?

The answer is easy: I had the most in common with her. She was closest to my age, and her concerns were my concerns. I was the youngest, no one really took me seriously, I had grandiose dreams, I liked nice things, I had blond hair, I was the polar opposite of a tomboy (let’s not talk about the fact that I never even completed the Presidential Fitness checklist in gym), my friends’ opinions were very important to me, and…I’ve always hated my nose. I might not have had the guts to burn someone else’s ms., but it’s possible I’d have wanted to. And in addition to writing, I loved to draw and paint. I planned to illustrate all my own “novels.” Yeah, well…like Amy, I realized that I was never going to be a great artist. Or even a fair-to-middling one. Oh, and I always planned to name my first daughter Amy (I didn’t.)

But here’s the thing about Amy and Jo. Of all the sisters, those two had the most in common. In fact, there’s not much difference between them. Both young women were tough, but Amy was perhaps slightly more practical, and willing to compromise to get what she wanted.

 

So all this time, I’ve endured the wrath and scorn of the Amy-haters. But then director Greta Gerwig rode in on a white horse to offer a different take on her character, and (along with amazing actress Florence Pugh) gave Amy March true depth. Maybe people will understand her better now. Maybe they’ll even…like her.

Don’t get me wrong. My mascara ran all over my face in the dark theater as I watched Jo’s writer’s dreams come true. And I laughed at the pompous, sexist publisher, and cheered for the importance of  owning copyright and earning royalties (you go, Taylor Swift—I mean, Jo.)

And Amy, you go, too! Thanks, Miss Mitchell. And especially you, Greta Gerwig.

Readers, have you seen the new Little Women movie? Any thoughts? (If you still hate Amy, that’s okay!)

23 thoughts on “Chasing Amy March

  1. I just saw it last night! I had never seen it before or read it, so it was all new to me. (I didn’t know the big spoiler going into it, but also, it’s not really that much of a spoiler! It’s pretty clear from the beginning.) It was a great movie, and I was happy to finally catch up with a lifetime full of references to the March sisters!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Marla, you need to read the book STAT! (In your spare time, lol. I haven’t read anything that long in quite a while. Glad you enjoyed the movie, though.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I first read “Little Women” in the 4th grade and absolutely loved it. It is still a favorite of mine, along with most of her other books. “Jo’s Boys”, “Eight Cousins”, “Rose in Bloom”, “Jack and Jill”, all are favorites (“Little Men” not so much). I reread them every three or four years.

    A “cherry-bounce” is a charabanc – a large carriage/bus I think.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Mary, you are a dedicated Alcott fan! It fascinates me how she worked in so many autobiographical details. But it sounds as if her real life wasn’t quite as jolly. Thank you mille fois for explaining the cherry bounce!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I read it when I was young and don’t remember much about it, except, you know, the big spoiler. It’s on my list to watch, though. Big Greta Gerwig fan here. I saw a funny meme the other day, something about how payment for writers hasn’t changed since Jo earned her paycheck. (Wasn’t it $100? That’s a lot!)

    You reminded me of my first grown-up book. It was a beautiful hardback Bambi my dad gave me for Christmas when I was 10. The cover was white and it had a clear plastic dust cover. I was in heaven and just a glance to my right, and I can see it on my shelf and relive that thrill of receiving it.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The publishing scenes were priceless. Not sure much has changed, really. Except maybe the word “spicy.” I’m glad you still have Bambi on your shelf. I’m going to have to dig up that actual Little Women copy (I lazily bought a new one in the meantime, just to remind me.)

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Ha, Mark, that’s okay! There were quite a few guys in the theater, but I suspect none of them had read the book, either. They bought extra popcorn for the duration. But thanks for reading the post anyway! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I admit I’ve never read the book, either (I was too busy devouring every single horse book ever published), but I loved this movie. And I thought it was brilliant, how Gerwig jumped around in time, making us pay attention to details that might have gone unnoticed, otherwise. And now, yes, I guess I really should read the book!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Lisa, I love this post so much. You should get a super fan award!! Thank you for sharing your Little Women history!

    Haven’t seen the movie yet–cannot wait to go.

    ps: In Lila #4, one of the professors is dressed up as Louisa May Alcott for a costume gala–and there’s a brief conversation about which Gothic story of hers is their favorite. 🙂 Have you ever read “A Whisper in the Dark”? That’s mine…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cynthia! I don’t think I’ve read her Gothic stories–I did have some kind of LMA anthology, though. (Or maybe I’m recalling the convo in The Subject of Malice. I’ll have to put them on The List!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I wrote a whole post for Mystery Scene about my relationship to Little Women! It defined my world. I went to a screening of the film where Greta Gerwig and Siorse Ronan talked, along with the composer and producer – whose name is Amy Beth Pascal! So Lisa, she was clearly #TeamAmy! I have mixed feelings about the movie. I felt the back-and-forth time frame hurt some of the relationships. Suddenly Meg and John are getting married. I missed the buildup of their romance. But since I NEVER bought Jo’s romance with that dullard, Prof. Baer, I was kind of okay with the end. It also helped that Timothee Chalamet, while talented and gorgeous, seemed really young to me, so I wasn’t as invested in his relationship with Jo as I was when Christian Bale-be-still-my-heart played him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Totally agree on Timothee/Laurie! Turns out he’s only 1 year younger than Saoirse Ronan in real life. I thought he was, like, 16. And I always loathed the Professor. In the book, he was practically a grandpa to me. But after Movie Jo’s concession to her publisher of marrying off her heroine, well…maybe it never happened (good riddance!).

      Like

  8. Wonderful post. I’ve seen so many versions of this story, and loved the book. I LOVED this version of the story, and liked Amy for the first time. I actually thought that they way she told the story was lovely–it showed the journey of women in a very interesting way. And I loved the ending as well. Though the 1994 version, with Gabriel Byrne, had a lovely ending as well. But that ending wouldn’t have served this story.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This was my favorite movie version, by far. It fascinated me how oddly current the story felt. I didn’t mind the back and forth in time, for once. And I didn’t feel at any point as if young adults were playing kids, or vice versa.

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