I am finally done. At 1,300+ pages of story, this book took a little over a week to read; granted, I could have been done with it sooner but games, movies, outings, and school assignments seemed to be more inviting than reading it. Just some impressions:
1. The March sisters are very bratty and rude, even as adults - but this is coming from a 35 year old reader and mom of two small children. If my son and/or daughter wanted to read this book, I would welcome it because this is definitely written to connect with much younger readers than myself; I think my kids would get a kick out of reading about the plays and outdoor adventures the sisters and Laurie went on. I think you have to be in a certain age range to fully connect with the characters, and therefore enjoy, this book.
2. One big problem I have with the book is Alcott's fetishization of poverty. I get it, rich people suck. But the March family isn't that poor; see their position to that of the Hummel family for instance. Alcott seem to think poor WASPy people were the BEST. PEOPLE. EVER. It made me uncomfortable; I grew up in a single-mother household, I knew hard financial times and never thought that it made me a better person than my well-off friends. Again, the Marches were not that poor, but they complained so frequently of not having fancy trinkets so much you thought they were eating out of other people's garbage cans and living in cardboard shelters.
3. I know it was the custom for the time in which the book was published, but holy anti-Irish sentiments Batman! No other immigrant group was singled out as "other" except for the Irish. Maybe I am sensitive to it, as I am a descendant of immigrants from County Cork (my maternal grandmother's side of the family).
4. The words cheerful, cheer, cheering got on my last damn nerve. By part two of the novel, I wanted to cheerfully throat punch anyone who said or did anything with cheer. Repetitive much?
5. The romances were okay (didn't really see a love connection between Meg and John but did see it between Laurie and Amy), but Jo's romance with the much older Fritz left me cold, yet it was better than dealing with her misery over being a spinster after hearing ad nausem about her damn love of independence. I dug the way Aunt March and Mrs. Carol decided to take Amy over Jo to Europe because of Jo's big mouth - served her right!
6. I might have shed a tear or two...or more over Beth's death. Alcott wrote such beautiful prose in the lead up and chapter on her death, even I got the feels. Beth seemed a little wall papery type of character to me until the scarlet fever hit, then she came into her own a bit; still she was overshadowed by her more fully developed sisters, especially Jo and Meg. Once she died, though, any feels for this book stopped too.
7. If you want to read this book, go in blind. I made the mistake of reading the introduction, in which the editor goes into how Alcott and her character Jo were so alike. I think that is why I didn't really connect with Jo; she seemed to be more of the idealized version Alcott wanted herself to be, rather than a stand alone figure.
8. There is a lot of moralizing (Judeo-Protestant Christian type) in this book. It was a bit much for me, and I read Christian romance books. Also it was at times really sweetly sentimental - I think I got a cavity from all the sugar.
9. The chapters where Amy was in Europe was interesting, as I felt like a traveler seeing those sites with my own eyes. Alcott did a great job bringing Europe to life for the reader.
I am still glad I read the novel because if it comes up in discussions, I will at least have knowledge of the contents. It wasn't a bad book, but definitely for young readers than adults. I decided before hitting part two that I was not going read further into the series; having read the last chapter, I feel more confident that I don't really need to read the other two books. Alcott really knew how to tie up those loose ends and complete the story, so I was quite satisfied with the story's conclusion even if I didn't care for any of the characters.
Warning: Don't get the B&N Classic edition - the formatting is awful (which is why the page count is so bloated). The story itself is very easy to read, but the formatting can give you a headache. This did not factor into my star rating, but I wanted it known so others could find alternative sources that were not an eye-sore.