September 25, 2009

A Fall Read

Do you remember the first time you read Little Women? I do. I remember reading it when I was eleven. I would stay up until my mom made me turn out the lights, then I'd pull the flashlight I'd stashed out from under my pillow and continue to read. My mom has a really beautiful vintage set of Louise May Alcott books that mildewed once I read them from all my tears. Everyone always identifies with Jo, but me, well I could see myself in all four of the girls. I had Amy's desired nose and love of dramatics, Beth's love of music and occasionally her sweet soul, Meg's pampered laziness, and of course, Jo's devil-may-care attitude and love of writing. I think this made the book sweeter for me because when each sister came to an event in their life I felt for them all. Reading this book began a long love affair with the works of Louise May Alcott, one that continues today. So am I telling you to re-read Little Women? Well you're free to, but I'm actually not here to talk about this particular book at all. See soon after discovering Louisa May Alcott I began to try and find lesser known works by her. And one Christmas it happened. My parents gave me The Book. This book, my dear friends, is not only my guide book to life, but also a rather creepy tale of "my" kind of girl. And for this reason my heart will forever belong to An Old Fashioned Girl.

Polly Milton loves music, old things, pretty, but simple frocks, her wild brown curls, books, a good sled ride, peanuts, a being a little girl. All at age 14. Her Best friend Fanny is 16 and far more concerned with "men", and parties and Bronze Boots. So when Polly comes for a long visit to Posh Boston, her "countrified" ways are not looked well upon. Except for by Grandma, Fanny's grandmother, who takes a keen liking to Polly and her "old fashioned ways", and to some extent Tom, Fanny's "bear" of a brother. But even the huge and uncomfortable contrast in their lives does not dampen Polly's influence on the family, and she manages to bring some sunshine to a rather gloomy lot.

Well at least that's the beginning of the book.

I love this book. In the end all the bases have been covered and it leaves no stone un-turned. All your questions are answered in a very pleasing way. The love story that is essentially the core of the story begins almost from page one and carries through to the very end, and you can watch it as it sprouts, buds, blossoms, and grows. And while the author makes it very clear that Polly is by no means the ideal girl, she is in her own right a role model, especially for me.

It's hard to say why I love this book so much. I've never cried so many times, nor felt my heart filled with such utter disparaging, deep, passionate, frustrating love. I've never hoped so much, or laughed so hard. The book doesn't just tell about how a rich family is put in their place by a poor little girl, no it tells the story of how a poor little girl never wants because she has learned how to be happy with life. Polly is happy. She is independent, resourceful, intelligent, pretty, talented, and refuses to be crushed by anything, even when she has good reason to be crushed. Her story is not merely heart warming and charming. It's the story of life, the kind of life worth living. I also love that the characters change. By the end of the story they aren't who they were at the beginning, they are changed by the way life hits them, some for the better some for worse. They all grow, grow-up, and face real life issues. They don't hide from life, but go out and live it. They learn who they are, and who they are not. Their relationships change, as they themselves change, and they each have to face these changes and how these changes affect the individual and the friendships.

I first read this book as a 14 year old girl, who secretly still played with dolls. Then I was young Polly's age, and I looked at life through the eyes of a little girl, much like Polly. The second half of the book follows Polly as a young twenty something. I have read this book probably a hundred times and now as I re-read it again, I relate to my dear Polly even more so now, because I read it through the eyes of a young woman much like Polly. I really don't mean to sound so poetic and silly, but I can't help it. If your read this book, I think you will find a very good idea of how I approach life, that's how much I have been shaped by this story.

I could go on for hours about my love of this story, about the clever turns of phrase, about the far too realistic depiction of just how evil females can me, but I think that the best summary of this book was given by the author, our dear Miss Alcott. So if you are interested in a very good read and I have done nothing to convince you of how wonderful this book is, then hopefully this will convince you:

"The "Old-Fashioned Girl" is not intended as a perfect model, but as a possible improvement upon the Girl of the Period, who seems sorrowfully ignorant or ashamed of the good old fashions which make women truly beautiful and honoured and, through her, render home what is should be-a happy place where parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to love, and know and help one another."


  1. that looks like such a lovely book, i'll have to add it to my autumn book list. =)

  2. i ADORE "little women" i read it in french and then in english and it's actually one of the few books i took with me in Stockholm....