LITERATURE

March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women

Library of America. Aug. 2019. 192p. ISBN 9781598536287. pap. $21.95; ebk. ISBN 9781598536294. LIT
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For the past 150 years, Louise May Alcott’s Little Women has fascinated readers of all ages. This collection features essays by four authors who analyze a character from the novel with whom she most identifies. Bolick (Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own) recalls stressing over her looks and clothing choices, qualities she associates with Meg, as the beauty-conscious March sister. Similarly, Jenny Zhang (Sour Hearts) reveals her connection to the fearless Jo in her struggles to be accepted as a writer. Zhang’s mother often flew into rages, unlike Marmee who always remains patient despite Jo’s outbursts. Both mothers do, however, agree that their daughters should never show anger. Carmen Maria Machado (Her Body and Other Parties), who was often ill during childhood, understands Beth and explores her resemblance to Alcott’s second-youngest sister Lizzie. Finally, Jane Smiley (“Last Hundred Years” trilogy), who first admired Jo the most, came to see Amy as the most modern and savvy of the sisters, pointing out that instead of doggedly pursuing her independence as Jo does, Amy is more political, working to make the best of her situation.
VERDICT Recommended for readers seeking a new look at this much-loved classic, the source of Alcott’s inspiration, and how contemporary authors have seen themselves evolve over time.

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