Happy Saturday, my friends! I hope you’re having a fabulous weekend. It was warm enough to be at the park today so we were happy!
I am excited to share my first 2018 review for The Classics Club. If you’re new here, let me explain how this works. The Classics Club is a group of bookworms who love classic literature. We all have goals to read at least 50 classics in 5 years or less. The list and timeline is up to you. I have loved participating and getting motivated to read classics I have wanted to tackle for years. Thank you, Classics Club!
Tonight I am reviewing Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. I was inspired to begin my 2018 classics reading with this title after enjoying Invincible Louisa–a compelling biography of Alcott that won the 1937 Newbery Honor Medal. After reading that biography, I knew I wanted to read more from Alcott and decided to start with the sequels to Little Women.
First, a few thoughts on Little Women, the first novel I reviewed for The Classics Club. I love that novel so much! I love the beautiful characters. I love the heartwarming story. I love the triumph, tragedy, redemption, love, and growth. It is a true classic that I think everyone can enjoy and I certainly plan on reading to my children one day. For me, Little Women is like Anne of Green Gables (the original book). It’s in a class all it’s own because it is so beloved. Because of that pedestal status, I think it’s unfair to compare the sequels to it. So I begin reading sequels to these classics with an open mind–determined to like them because I like the original but also determined not to hold it to as high a standard. Such is the case here.
- I loved having the background from Meigs’ biography before reading this novel. It made the world of Plumfield come to life even more strongly. I love how many autobiographical details Alcott includes in her stories.
- This continuing story gives me more respect and admiration for the Bhaers. I actually really love Professor Bhaer in this novel. More on this below.
- I read this book from an antique copy my sister got me for Christmas one year. It has very brittle pages that break easily. I would love to own the complete set with the covers below. I think they are beautiful!
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott follows the continuing story of Jo March Bhaer and her husband Friedrich as they open a school for boys in the large house at Plumfield. Goodreads summarizes, “After her marriage to Professor Friedrich Bhaer, Jo uses the money from her inheritance from Aunt March to set up a school at Plumfield. Their latest arrival is Nat Blake, a timid orphan boy whose life so far has been spent playing the violin to make money on the streets. Nat joins the 10 other children at the school—. . . neglected children, orphans, and also Meg’s twins. The touching friendship and camaraderie between the group is expertly described. The peaceful equilibrium of the school is troubled though when Nat introduces Dan to the mix—the latter then leads the boys into experimenting with drinking, smoking, fighting, and playing cards. Moving and poignant, Little Men is far from saccharine and emotions run high throughout.”
The genre is so similar to Little Women which makes it endearing to me from the start. This book is comforting. I love Alcott’s tone and style throughout. We get the same style as the first novel–a series of short stories full of little anecdotes about the boys and time passes at varying speeds. The novel covers about a year in the life of Jo and her house full of boys. We get varying accounts of interacts between the boys and the Bhaers. I enjoyed the third person narrator and getting into the heads of most of the characters. This novel, like the first, is also longer than I expected. I love the charming tales of the boys of Plumfield. For me, the beginning was a slow start to this book. But it got better and better as it continued.
“It takes so little to make a child happy, that it is a pity in a world full of sunshine and pleasant things, that there should be any wistful faces, empty hands, or lonely little hearts.”
“Mrs Jo sat smiling over her book as she built castles in the air, just as she used to do when a girl, only then they were for herself, and now they were for other people, which is the reason perhaps that some of them came to pass in reality–for charity is an excellent foundation to build anything upon.”
“For love is a flower that grows in any soul, work its sweet miracles undaunted by autumn frost or winter snow, blossoming fair and fragrant all the year, and blessing those who give and those who receive.”
Little Men, pages 66-7, 184, & 405
There were so many lovable characters in this novel that it’s hard to pick a favorite from the children. But I loved Demi and Daisy, Nat and Dan best. But all the boys are so endearing and fun. Demi was so inquisitive and brave after tragedy struck his home. I loved Daisy’s fondness for cooking and taking care of the boys. I loved Nat’s gentle passion and his deep love of music. And I loved Dan because he changed so much and became such a light and protector at the house. I will admit that he wasn’t a favorite of mine when he first came to Plumfield. But I rejoiced in his return with the rest of the family. The boys all teach us something about growing up–the importance of obedience, love, connection, friendship, honesty, discipline, and balance in our lives. I found that the Plumfield boys became nearly as dear to me as the March sisters are.
I also was also pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed reading more about Mr and Mrs Bhaer. I’m definitely a Jo and Laurie fan. I was devastated when they didn’t end up together at the end of Little Women. I’m glad we get to see Laurie in this novel as well and I enjoyed his visits to Plumfield nearly as much as the boys did (especially his founding of the museum). But I was surprised by how much I came to admire and respect Mr Bhaer. I admired his judgment in teaching Nat the importance of honesty. I laughed at his stories he told the boys regularly. And I appreciated his patience and love with each boy in an individualized way. Jo did not marry beneath her wit, knowledge, or dreams. Professor Bhaer is a good man well worth emulating.
“Boys at other schools probably learned more from books, but less of that better wisdom that makes good men.”
“Kindness is always better than force. Try it and see.”
“I only loved them, and let them see it.”
Little Men, pages 40, 383, & 400
As in the first novel, Little Men teaches children so many beautiful and important life lessons. I appreciate the way the Bhaers create balance of work and play in their school. They give the children each a garden plot to grow whatever they wish. They allow the boys to have pillow fights once a week and a long walk on Sundays. They encourage the boys in their talents and interests. They require diligence in their academic studies and also in their moral studies. I love Jo’s book where she keeps the details of each boy’s deeds–both good and bad–and teaches the boys to want to be good. And most of all, they love the boys which gives them beautiful childhoods and worthwhile direction for the future.
This book makes me feel good. The stories are positive and light. The characters are memorable and fun. And Alcott’s signature style reigns throughout the novel. I appreciate her as a person and an author even more after reading more of her work. She wrote these books for children of her time. But they are timeless stories that continue to teach strong values. This was a great way to begin my classics reading this year!