Little women grow up

I have just returned from the cinema where I saw Greta Gerwig’s version of Little Women. As a child, Louisa May Alcott’s book Little women was one of my favourites and I read it many times over. My husband suprised me with a ticket for tonight after it was sold out when we tried to watch it at the weekend.

Watching it transported me straight back to reading my dog-eared copy by torchlight under my duvet. I allowed the loving March family to take my hand and bring me with them on their tale of love, betrayals, family, strife, hardship and sisterhood. As an only child myself, I was always drawn to the tight bond between the four sisters.

I desperately wanted to be a writer, so I understood Jo’s passion and admired her gumption. I also wanted to be kind and good, like poor sweet Beth was. I was a little prissy and overly dramatic, like Amy, and I wanted to marry for love, like Meg. I longed, in my idyllic country childhood, to struggle through war and sickness and turmoil, just like they did. Coming through well-rounded, full of wisdom and tall tales! (I told you I was dramatic…)

When you stop to think about it, they were the Sex & The City girls or Spice Girls of their time. I know, a fairly horrifying thought, but each character possessing a trait you can identify with personally, so you can see yourself as one of them, or even parts of yourself in all of them.

The book has love stories and shows love in many different forms, but it’s not a romance to me. It is about learning how to become a woman and where you fit in, and about the bonds of family. Greta’s version places feminism and choice at the forefront and perhaps she saw in the story something I connected with before I had words for it.

Now as an adult I still have fondness for Little Women, though in my real life I know I would have less patience for the foiballs and drama of the heroines. I have enough of my own very real troubles to wish myself anything as deadly as war, famine and life on the bread line. I’ve grown up. I’ve lost touch with that feisty Little Woman I once was and perhaps it is time I remembered her a little.

A promise I have made myself is that I will write more this year. When I was reading about ink-stained Jo in this novel, I was so sure that I would have books published by the time I was 30. I’m pushing 40 now and finding the blog hard enough to keep up with! But Jo’s furiously scribbled pages, the plays she writes for her family and her sheer determination are calling from the backroom of my childhood memories. They are reminding me we are all Little Women, even when we grow up.

I am thankful I did marry for love, and that he is the kind of man who can give me a thoughtful gift like a night with myself and this treasured childhood memory. I am thankful to live in a world where even though I’m sickly like Beth, I likely won’t die from it. I am thankful I live in a world where I don’t have to fight to publish my stories or pretend to be a man. I can write and be heard as me and I should use that privilege. I am sad that we don’t yet live in a world where the stories of Little Women are always treated as equally, or given as much prominence, as men. And where Little Women of Colour are fighting to be heard and represented still. But I’m thankful I see the fire of change in so many Little Women’s eyes and I am it, is pushing it’s way through.

If this story tells us anything, it is that we should love our sisters – even when we don’t understand them or don’t like them in that moment. It tells us our stories are powerful, no matter how ordinary or how dramatic, they all have a place.