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!)