Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The new movie didn't impress me when I first saw it, and pales even more in comparison to the source material now that I'm familiar with it. Episodes and exchanges that seemed forced and stilted in the movie make more sense and impact with Alcott's eloquent context.
The changes that Greta Gerwig makes to the plot and character outcomes, updated to take a more revisionist, evolved point of view, may be more politically correct but seem contrived and awkward. By comparison, Alcott's story -- while hokey and convenient -- rings with more of a feel of the harsh reality of the times.
From the perspective of time, it's easy to lose sight of how groundbreaking the book was for its time, and how it set the stage for continued progress in feminist literature while still managing to captivate the masses. Alcott walked a fine line with her philosophy, subtle satire and sly witticisms, and her bravery and execution stand the test of time.
The Audible version, narrated with knowing whimsy by Lauran Dern and delivered with a well-produced voice cast worthy of a radio play, hits many of the same lively notes that Gerwig's film went for. This version is a fresh and vital adaptation that captures the essence of Alcott's words in the way a film never could.
The decades may have dulled the book's message of self-determination, and its moralizing about sacrificing personal fame and gain in favor of family needs becomes more wince-inducing as time marches on. But taken on its own merits and given the society from which it sprang, "Little Women" is something of a literary miracle, and still deserves to be revered.
Publisher provided review copy.
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