Size Doesn’t Matter (176): Little Women; Persuasion

Size Doesn’t Matter (176): Little Women; PersuasionLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Narrator: C.M. Hebert
Length: 19 hrs, 3 mins
Published by Blackstone Audio on December 18, 2006
Genres: Classics, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
two-stars

Following the lives of four sisters on a journey out of adolescence, Louisa May Alcott's Little Women explores the difficulties associated with gender roles in a Post-Civil War America.

One of my dark readerly secrets has been that I’d never read Little Women; all my knowledge of it came solely from the movie with Winona Ryder and Christian Bale as Jo and Laurie (and I will forever die on that ship). As a kid, I tried several times to read my copy of Little Women that I’d had my parents buy me because of how much I loved the movie, but I never managed to make it more than a couple of chapters. Because you can get audiobooks really cheap on Audible if you own an ebook on Amazon, even if it’s a free ebook, I purchased the audiobook, determined to finally read Little Women. I’m not sure that this particular narration was ideal, but I’m not sure that I was going to enjoy this much in any format.

I did it! I finally fished this behemoth, and I can’t judge my young self for not being able to hack it, because holy shit is this book long, boring, and fucking jam-packed with Christian moralizing. The characters, while basically the same as in the film adaptation, lack vibrancy, all do to the staid and judgmental voice of the author. Alcott’s authorial voice is at the forefront, and she wants you to learn certain lessons.

Like, there’s this one part where Marmie teaches her daughters a lesson about chores by not making them do any, and after a week the girls are so bored that they BEG to do chores. I THINK NOT, ALCOTT. This scene is referenced over and over through the rest of the book, as the girls devote themselves to hard work and not having idle hands. It’s not that I think this is necessarily a bad lesson in and of itself, but it’s done in such a heavyhanded, moralizing, unrealistic way. Blergh.

In the film, Jo’s the protagonist with her sisters taking more of a backseat. That’s sort of the case here, but the focus is more evenly shared. Amy gets quite a lot of narrative time once she’s older, and Meg gets some too. While Jo’s character is precisely the same as the movie depicts, the difference is that, in the book, it’s so clear that Alcott doesn’t admire her spirit. It’s also very apparent that Beth is the ideal little woman, and it’s so preachy when she dies that I could not even.

One thing I will say is that the romance stuff is easier to take in the book. Mostly because all of the romances are absolutely awful, so I could just shrug when Jo and Laurie didn’t happen and he married Amy. Jo and Laurie would have been the best of a bad lot, but it’s apparent from pretty early on that Alcott absolutely does not approve of the match. The professor shows up earlier, and it’s less awful than the very end surprise of the movie, but I still do not like it. Amy and Laurie are also better set up, and it feels less like they got together solely to spite Jo and will be cheating on each other within the year. Still, I do not ship it. Meg and the tutor was worse too. All the romance is as unromantic as possible.

This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I found Little Women dull from beginning to end, and from this point on I’m going to pretend the book doesn’t exist, so I can still enjoy the retellings and adaptations.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

Size Doesn’t Matter (176): Little Women; PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Length: 8 hrs, 47 mins
Published by Naxos AudioBooks on February 8, 2007
Genres: Classics, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first and only love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. When their paths finally cross again, Anne finds herself slighted and all traces of their former intimacy gone. As the pair continue to share the same social circle, dramatic events in Lyme Regis, and later in Bath, conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.

Juliet Stevenson reads this unabridged recording with her customary clarity and particular understanding for the words and world of Jane Austen.

Unlike Little Women, I have read Persuasion before, though I did pick up this audiobook using the same cheap Audible strategy. This is my third or fourth time through Persuasion, but it had definitely been too long.

What I appreciate most about Persuasion, which I feel like many of the retellings don’t really get, is how flawed both Wentworth and Anne are. Both of them played a key role in their romance falling apart. She listened to the negativity of friends and family and turned him down even though she loved him, but he failed to understand that she did have legitimate concerns as well. He followed that up with nursing a serious grudge and acting like a fool to make her jealous. Anne was too cautious and Wentworth too injured to consider what her rejection actually meant.Wonderfa11s

Over the course of the novel, Anne learns to open up, to be more honest about her feelings, and not to question them as much due to the opinions of others. Wentworth, meanwhile, comes to realize that there’s a power in strength and caution. Persuasion‘s actually a quite fun book to read after Quiet. His letter is everything. Persuasion admittedly isn’t my favorite Austen (P&P and Northanger Abbey are tops for me), because it’s painful in a massively realistic and well done way when Wentworth is flirting with the neighbors and rubbing it in Anne’s face.

I really need to make regular Austen rereads more of a priority. Minus Mansfield Park obvs.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

 

2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (176): Little Women; Persuasion”

  1. Joanne Levy says:

    Confession time – I’ve read neither of these books. My (not so) secret shame is how few classics I’ve read.
    Joanne Levy recently posted…CRUSHING IT Launch Party!My Profile

  2. Heather says:

    Ahhh, I did not like Little Women either! I don’t know if I ever finished reading it because I was so bored. Congratulations on finishing!

    I really need to try Jane Austen again. Northanger Abbey is the most gothic, right? I feel like you told me many moons ago that I’d probably like that one the best.

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