Monday, October 26, 2009

Little Women

Women we never met helped to raise many of us. It was their words--the stories they told us and the characters they created--that tended us. A chapter a night, perhaps, we are indebted to them forever. Two among them were Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery. While I have known of both of their lives, I know Montgomery better because I have read her journals many times. It is one of my most treasured books. In Anne of Green Gables she gave her readers the essentials of her own life, but it was a thread rather than entire fabric.

The discussion of Louisa May Alcott and Orchard House, her home in Concord, Massachusetts, brings to my mind an important fact: Behind the children's classics that we have come to love and call our own own, each in our own way, were flesh and blood women--and women of their times. Their fiction gives us hints, but it is not the whole story of their lives.

Two new books on these icons of our childhoods, The Woman Behind Little Women and Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, are biographies you may want to read. From what I know of them, they will have disturbing notes. But I've ordered them, and when they arrive, I'll talk more about each. But what I will remember most is the little girl in the Newfield Public Library devouring the books that seemed written just for her. What a gift for a writer to touch hearts and souls, perhaps even when her own life had hurt and sorrow.


  1. I picked up Harriet Reisen's book on Louisa May Alcott on Saturday and have been engrossed in it ever since. The first bio I read on LMA seemed sad to me. This one, although somber in parts, has some really delightful moments in it. The documentary film based on the book airs on PBS in late December. Simply cannot wait for that as well!


  2. Oh, I'm so glad you've brought up these two brave and wonderful writers, Nancy. They do have sorrowful notes to their lives, but the beauty they managed to create, despite personal pain and grief and illness--well, it's nothing short of miraculous. I'm running out to get those soon as I finish re-reading my way through the Anne of Green Gables books! Right now, Anne, Gilbert and I are building her "house of dreams." What could be more perfect to read during this nesting season?
    Karen Marline

  3. Hi,
    I can't remember the author, but early on this year I read a book titled "Before Green Gables", what a fantastic read. So much detail in this particular book. A great companion. Also my theatre group here in Sydney is presenting the non-professional premiere of the musical "Little Women" next May. I am really excited about that. We did get to see the show professionally last year and I was amazed. The cast were wonderful in their roles and the music was so beautiful. Two of the best tv series ever were the Anne of Green Gables films and the series of "Little Men". I remember them both fondly.

    Babe xxxxx ooooo

  4. I look forward to hearing more after you read the books. I have visited the home in Concord, MA of Louisa May Alcott and I also love Anne of Green Gables.

  5. The World Of Louisa May Alcott is a wonderful book that I have enjoyed over and over. A wonderful glimpse of her life and times. The photos are plenty and it also includes all of the family friends (Emerson,Thoreau). Text by William Anderson and photography by David Wade. I love to curl up in my favorite spot on a rainy or snowy day and spend time with either LMA or LMM.

  6. I, too, am looking forward to learning more about these writers.

    I am a huge fan of "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm," which predates Anne by five years. Believe it or not, I once asked a college professor about both books and was told Rebecca was a pale imitation of Anne, and that it came later. That was before Wiki, of course, but I eventually figured it out on my own.


  7. Although I was treated to many a fantastic book as a child, read to me lovingly by my mother, my memories are of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess, The Five Little Peppers, The Bobsey Twins, Raggedy Ann and Andy, Beatrix Potter's books, and many more. However, two conspicuously absent titles from my young years were Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. It was not until I was in my early twenties that I finally read these two, as a newlywed. I devoured Little Women and several of the Anne books. Although I had heard about them, I believe that my interest in them was picqued by Victoria. Now I own the collection of Anne of Green Gables books and movies and my own copy of Little Women (which I have eagerly shared with my own daughter). I don't know a lot about the authors other than where they lived and bits and pieces of their lives. In spite of their compelling way with fiction, it is not a surprise to learn that their own lives were touched by sadness. They wouldn't have been human otherwise, as all of us are touched by sadness and tragedy at some point in life. It makes us who we are, shaping our character and oftentimes driving us to bring joy to others. Tragedy has driven many an artist to do some of their most magnificent work. And, what treasures Alcott and Montgomery gave us with their pens. They both knew the art of character development, although in very different ways. And though their characters were also touched by tragedy, they always managed to somehow rise from that tragedy stronger and more determined to find joy. I think that is why we love them so. I find with so much modern writing, there is the willingness to let a character languish in depression and darkness. But not the irrepressible Anne or the unflappable Jo. They were always able to find beauty from the ashes. So, I suppose I don't mind reading about the sorrow in these authors' lives as long as it is true to the facts. I look forward to hearing your reviews from the books.


  8. I was so delighted to discover your blog through a link on another. I have loved Victoria Magazine from the onset, through the abbreviation, and anew and always looked forward to your letters.

    I have enjoyed sitting here reading comments, especially about Louisa May Alcott, and am looking forward to December and Masterpiece Theater's presentation about her.

    There is another book about her, Little Women Abroad; The Alcott Sisters' Letters from Europe, 1870-71. Editer by Daniel Shealy. One of my dear friends entered my car and dangled it in front of my last year, knowing how much I love this writer. She had just picked it up from her library. She was teasing me, in a friend-to-friend way, and I was beside myself. I came home and did a library search, only to find that the only one in the system was my friend's library, and, of course, checked out. I called me local library and asked if I could put in "on hold", and told her my friend was taunting me. "Well" she said "we will just have to take care of that" and she proceeded to buy a copy just for me. Just writing about it makes me think I'll just have to check it out again.

    Thanks for a lovely, lovely journal.

  9. ooops. The Alcott feature will be on American Masters, but, you probably already know that.