When I was a child, one of my favourite books was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. We owned or borrowed from the library all the books by Alcott, though Little Women was our favourite, possibly because at one time there was also a dramatization of the book on television. It tells the story of four sisters and their mother, and the boy who lives in the big house next door. It’s set in America, and is based on the author’s own life (though I’m not sure how closely). There is something wholesome about the stories, and the characters have flaws and strengths, and are easy to relate to. I guess I was about ten years old when I first read the books for myself.
When I was very young, once a week, we caught the bus to visit my grandad. We would walk up to his house, and he would give us sweets, and then we would escape upstairs to play while my mother chatted and did jobs for Grandad. My aunt and cousin would often visit at the same time, and when my cousin was there, we would often ‘play’ Little Women (this must have been based on the telly series and my mum reading us the stories). Grandad’s house had two spare bedrooms, smelling of mothballs and dust and lavender. There were wardrobes, still filled with discarded clothes from my mother and her sisters, and we used these as our costumes, pulling the dresses—long on our child bodies—over our clothes, and swooshing around the room in them. They felt very grand and we felt beautiful (luckily, no one had phone cameras in those days!) We acted variations of the plot. Every week there was an argument/discussion about who would be which character. My cousin and sister were 3 years older than me, so I had very little influence, and they would only let me play if I was Beth—which meant that I had to spend the whole game in bed, not speaking, because I was too ill. I seem to remember that on one occasion, they told me they were starting the story after Beth had died, so I wasn’t allowed to move or speak. For some reason, this felt completely reasonable at the time.
So, last week, when Bea suggested that I joined her and my mother and went to see the new film of Little Women, I was very keen. We collected Mum, and drove to the cinema, and I worried about whether there would be an easy parking space, and whether our tickets (which were on my phone and unprintable) would work, and if the film would irritate me by shattering my childhood memories.
I wasn’t disappointed, it was fabulous.
Now, it’s a long time since I read the books (now on my ‘to do’ list) but I vaguely remember the story. The film is brilliantly cast, with the characters depicted exactly as I imagined them. However, the plot varies from the books slightly. I once watched a John LeCarre interview, and he said that a film is a very different medium to a book, and something that works for a book might not work as well for a film, therefore a film should be left to the script writers and not be constrained by the original version. I think these are wise words. The essence of the books remains constant, even if the plot has slight differences. As a film, it works brilliantly (I think). I won’t tell you how it differs, because you might go to see it and I don’t want to spoil it. It’s a good way to spend a lazy afternoon.
One aspect of the film, which will strike a chord with any aspiring author, is the difficulty that the character Jo has when trying to get her work published. She is depicted as being just as unsure and nervous as every author who I know today, and you see her motivated by encouragement and wilt when criticised. Clearly writing, whichever age we live in, makes the author feel vulnerable.
Do try to find time to watch the film, I fully recommend it. Though if you’re tempted to re-enact scenes at home, try to ensure you’re not cast as Beth–I can assure you, it’s not a great role.
Thanks for reading. Have a great week.
Love, Anne x