Book Club: ‘Little Women’ hits home for one Vail Daily editor
Editor’s note: This monthly-ish column by the Vail Daily’s entertainment editor will discuss books she’s reading.
The Vail Valley finally gets “Little Women” in theaters on Jan. 10. Wow, I could not be more excited. I haven’t been this hyped on a film probably since “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.” The fun catch is that both of them star Emma Watson. So maybe (definitely) I’m just a huge stan* for her.
But really, I’m a huge stan for women stepping outside boundaries masculine-influenced society has set for them, while also holding onto feminine things that bring joy and happiness. “Little Women,” both the critically-acclaimed new movie and the book, do that in different ways.
I first read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” when I was in high school. I’d spent some time digging through my mom’s old collection of books, which was dominated by Carolyn Keene’s Nancy Drew series. Aside: Nancy Drew, since I was a kid, has been a longtime literary favorite of mine which was further fueled by countless hours playing HeR Interactive’s mystery PC games based on the teen detective. Among other titles in the grey bin, I pulled out her old copy of “Little Women.”
When I finally got around to reading it, I enjoyed it, and was surprised that I did. I love classics from all time periods, but I feel that a lot of women-centric novels from the 19th century – looking at you, “Pride and Prejudice” – are deathly boring treatises on how dull and uninspired men apparently make women’s lives better.
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In the book, Jo March (Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel”), marries Professor Bhaer, but movie director Greta Gerwig shared in an interview with my hometown newspaper that apparently, Alcott didn’t want to marry off her beloved headstrong protagonist.
“We loved (Jo) because she was a writer and owned it and what she was doing. And the fact that Alcott had her get married, have kids, and give up writing—that’s not Jo,” Gerwig said to the Harvard Press. “In the research I did, I could see that Alcott never wanted to end the book that way. She felt she had to. And after 150 years, if we can’t give her the ending she really wanted, then we’ve made no progress at all.”
I’ve stated a few times in my writings that part of “Little Women,” set mostly in Concord and shot entirely in Massachusetts, used Harvard – not the college – as a filming location. That’s where I grew up. That’s also where Alcott grew up. Her father, a close friend of transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, moved the family to a transcendentalist commune in Harvard. Today, that commune is the museum Fruitlands, which hosts the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks as well as events, weddings and more.
“Little Women” shot scenes at Fruitlands, where I grew up going to those Fourth of July fireworks, where I once participated in a high school art show hung in the gallery, where I’d drive by on Prospect Hill Road, pull over either with friends in tow or by myself, and wonder which of my classmates were in the cars ahead of me while sipping on an iced coffee from Dunkin’.
It also shot at the Town Common, by the General Store, affectionately called the General. I used to grab snacks and juice in the General before field hockey practice. I’d meet my editor at the Harvard Press in the offices on the third floor of that building to discuss upcoming articles and catch up. The General served as a place where I’d meet or run into friends years after high school, former teammates, ex-boyfriends, anyone who I’d had some connection to in Harvard. I painted a mural with two of my close friends in a children’s classroom at the Congregational Church. The church appears in the movie and stands right next to the General.
All of these experiences, to me anyway, feel like small steps in me becoming a spirited Little Woman (both in stature and in age) not unlike the March sisters. Me, the fictional March sisters, the actresses in the movie, anyone who identifies with the story: all just trying to make it and have fun. I wonder what Alcott would think if she saw us today.
*As defined by Meriam Webster, a stan is “slang; often disparaging. An extremely or excessively enthusiastic and devoted fan.”
Casey Russell is the arts & entertainment editor and don’t get her started on how much of a creep Mr. Darcy is, even as portrayed by Colin Firth alongside Kiera Knightly, a.k.a. the other female British actress she stans. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.