Back in September, I started a Little Women read-along hosted by Risa at Breadcrumb Reads (you can see my thoughts here and here). It covered the first volume of the story Little Women but not the second part, which is sometimes known as Good Wives. Indeed, growing up, I always knew the two parts as two separate novels but that isn't always the case and my Penguin Threads edition contains both. So before the end of 2012, I decided to clear the reading decks by finishing the second half of the novel. This review will cover the whole story but focus mainly on Good Wives. There are spoilers ahead!
Good Wives opens three years after the events of Little Women, with the wedding of the oldest March sister Meg to John Brooke. It's a far more grown up story than the first, with all of the sisters reaching adulthood and trying to find their own way in the world. Jo jumps at an opportunity to go to New York and pursue a career in writing, but is in for some hard knocks along the way. Amy still wants to be a 'lady', but has learned to control her vanity and has to decide whether to marry purely for the money that the family needs. Meg learns that being a wife and running a home can be a challenge and Beth is still the same kind soul she was from the first volume.
I first read Good Wives as a teenager, and I remember not being too impressed with it. My young, romantic heart was very disappointed that Jo and Laurie didn't end up together and the concerns of the sisters didn't really relate to my own life. But now, in my mid-twenties, the book makes a lot more sense. Like the March girls, I grew up in a happy home with a sister I'm close to and growing up and away is both a lovely and sad experience. I read that in the book too, the happiness to be achieving dreams and getting married but the sadness and nostalgia that things will never be the same again. I've been married for eighteen months and I'm now an aunt, which is wonderful, but sometimes I miss being young and living at home with my Mum, Dad and sister. There was a sense of that throughout the whole second half of the novel which spoke to me. I completely missed the bitter-sweet tone of the story as a teenager.
Reading Good Wives, I feel justified in choosing Amy as my favourite of the March girls. In Little Women she's always struggling to catch up with her older sisters but in Good Wives she has matured. On this read, I could appreciate how well suited Amy and Laurie were, her calmness offsetting his hot-headedness. Obviously this means my young, romantic heart has well and truly left the building!
Reading Little Women was like sitting down with old friends, the whole experience was very comforting. I was thoroughly into the story and felt the emotions along with the sisters (especially when a certain tragic event takes place). I'm glad I made the time to re-read this book.
Classics Club: Book 5/72
Source: Personal copy
First Published: 1868
My Edition: Penguin Threads, 2012
Score: 5 out of 5