Thanks to this column and this post, I picked up Little Women at the library last week and read it over the weekend. Although I'm annoyed by Beth's mysterious undiagnosed illness and death (although that probably happened all the time back then...she might have been allergic to wheat), I can't forgive Jo for not falling in love with Laurie, and I found the moralizing a touch heavy-handed, I loved it and couldn't put it down. I can't figure out how I missed reading this when I was young...it would have been the exact thing I loved reading in my pre-teen days and I would have tried (unsuccessfully) to make myself over into the image of the good and pious March girls.
Right now I feel like the sisters were in the first pages...unsatisfied with life, wanting to be someone else. I'm not sure if Pilgrim's Progress would be the cure for me though. Now as a mother I guess I should try to emulate Marmee's unfailing patience and wisdom, but I feel a bit more like Meg who, after marrying Mr. Brooke and having twins virtually disappears from the book's pages except for a chapter showing how she was so involved with her children she was at risk of losing her husband, and when she turns to Marmee for advice learns she should allow her husband to give more of a hand in the nursery, let Hannah watch the kiddies while she catches up with her housework and fix herself up a bit so hubby will still find her attractive. Good advice, no doubt, but I'd rather spend a couple of years in Europe like Amy.
I suppose now I should check out Little Men, since that is what I'm surrounded by at home, but having watched part one of Tess of the D'Ubervilles on Masterpiece Sunday night, I felt compelled to check it out. As I drove to the library last night after work I tried to talk myself out of it because: a) It's embarrassing to read something just because you saw it on TV; b) If Masterpiece's dramatization varied significantly from the book, one or both would be ruined for me; and c) When I have a good book going, I neglect all my other duties and the charges under my care (Marmee would never approve). I decided that reading literature was a noble enough pastime to trump my reasons not to get it and checked it out (in a volume that also includes Jude the Obscure in case I want more), promising myself to read ONLY ONE CHAPTER last night.
I immediately found the story compelling (although my interest had already been piqued by the TV version), and I thought Masterpiece has been true to the depictions of characters and the storyline (so far). I find Hardy's descriptions, especially of people, to be incredibly vivid and (reading as a writer) I love how he sets up the story with an offhand remark by the Pastor setting off a chain reaction of events that (I'm just guessing here) will change the course of (and probably ruin) Tess's life.
As for just reading one chapter...I finally closed the book on the first page of Chapter 10 at 11:00 last night...so much for getting up early!