So with the latest Little Women film which came out last Christmas by Greta Gerwig. I finally decided it was time to read the books all three of them. Let’s go. Spoilers to follow and I’ll be brief.
The first book Little Women came out in 1868/9 is told in two parts Little Women and Good Wives. The first part focuses on a year in the life of the March Family. Meg (16), Jo (15), Beth (13) and Amy (12) live at home with Marmee, their Mother, their father has gone off to the War as a chaplain. They become friends with the boy next door Theodore Laurence “Laurie” (about 15 1/2), who is an orphan who lives with his Grandfather, James Laurence. Jo and Laurie become fast friends and eventually Laurie is basically a family member. Father gets sick and Marmee is called to Washington to nurse him back to health. Beth contracts scarlet fever and recovers in time for Father to arrive home at the end.
Part two, begins about 3 years later and begins with Meg marrying John Brooke, Laurie’s tutor. Amy heads off to Europe with her aunt and Jo realizes that Laurie has fallen in love with her but to Jo Laurie will only be a brother. Jo leaves for New York where she meets Professor Bhaer who is boarding in the same house and they have a connection but after Bhaer criticizes her writing the sensational stories for the Weekly Volcano as not great. She gives up on her writing until she can write something that is true. After returning home from New York Laurie proposes and Jo says no. Laurie heads with his grandfather to Europe to get over the heart break. Beth’s health declines and Jo become nurse maid once again. While Laurie is in Europe he runs into Amy he falls in love with her eventually. Before they can return Beth dies and Jo discovers that being alone isn’t the best of things. Amy and Laurie return from Europe married and Professor Bhaer comes to visit as well. Jo and Bhaer eventually share a small umbrella in the rain. Bhaer has only his fill heart and empty hand which are “not empty now”.
The films are all a bit different from the book moving bits and pieces around. Be Kind Rewind did a great video comparing all the big one. The 1933 and 1949 films are basically the exact same the later one is in color in 49 they also switch up the order of daughters w. Katherine Hepburn starred Jo in 33, June Allyson was Jo and Liz Taylor was Amy in 49. In 1994, it was the first time a woman directed the story Winona Ryder was Jo. The latest film from 2019 mixes the whole story up telling it in bits and pieces from childhood and adulthood, it also sort of changes the end, having Jo not marry maybe.
The second book, Little Men (1871) tells the story of life at Plumfield, Jo and Bhaer’s school where they raise about a dozen boys. Daisy and Demi (John), Meg’s kids, are taught there as well. Franz and Emil, Baher’s nephews are older and sort of help out and Jo and Bhaer’s kids Rob and Ted are toddlers. I can understand why this hasn’t gotten made into as many films as Little Women as there are so many children in here. We meet several new characters Nat, Tommy, Nan and Dan. This book is about bonds in childhood and focus on several months to a year in their lives.
The final book, Jo’s Boys (1886) is set a decade after Little Men and tells us all about what has happened to everyone. With Nat going off to Europe to become a concert violinist, Nan becoming a doctor and Dan traveling the world. This book pairs up almost all the characters with suitors.
It’s not that the other two books aren’t great they just are different than the first book sure we get Meg, Jo, Amy, Laurie, and Bhaer back from the original and they are characters but the focus is on the next generation. I’d suggest if you haven’t read Little Women before to read that but you don’t have to read the rest. Even if you’ve already read Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys are fine reads but not necessary unless you want to visit an older Jo.