I’ve always said that when you’ve started something, you need to see it through to the end. Still, when I started reading Little Women earlier this year, I didn’t realise that I would want to follow the story to its end. But I did! So, when I found a slightly used, slightly abridged copy of Good Wives, I had to take it.
Good Wives is the continued story of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March who have since grown into young ladies. Though each of the girls has grown and learnt the virtues their parents have taught them, there is still much for them to learn. As each girl goes on their own adventure to a new house, a new city, a new country or even further away they learn the most important lesson that a young Victorian lady should even know: how to be good, prosperous and patient wives.
Over the last little while I have read about people who say that Good Wives has now become an extended version of Louisa May Alcott’s original Little Women. While I had to read two books instead of one, I think that the director of the film version of Little Women starring Wynona Ryder, Claire Danes and Susan Saradon may have thought that Good Wives is just a part of Little Women because I believe, though disappointingly I still haven’t seen the film, that the film includes the story of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy’s grow up years. I guess if you’re wanting to see for yourself all the beautiful scenes and moments described in the book and well as hearing someone try and pronounce the name of the man called Mr Bhear (no, I don’t know how to say it properly either), watching the film will afford you that opportunity.
In My Humble Opinion:
When I read Little Women, I enjoyed the story more than I thought I would. Even though the story was full of moral lessons, they weren’t told in a preachy fashion as some authors go about doing. There was no compromising plot for the moral lessons that were taught. So when I picked up Good Wives, I wondered whether the sequel would be just as good or even better that the first. I had my apprehensions. After all, I’ve read books where the sequel is decidedly less spectacular (and sometimes bordering on just plain bad) than the original and first.
But, Good Wives was infinitely more than I could have hoped. I enjoyed reading the girls learning to be the best women they could be and the plot wasn’t compromised at all in spite of the subtle moral teachings throughout the book. I didn’t feel preached at; I felt like I was simply learning good values through the experience of others.
Good Wives (and Little Women) is a great book for all women to read mainly because of the characters. Though Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are sisters, they seem to embody every kind of personality and they have vices that not only make them more realistic (and more identifiable) they also have the power to resonate with everyone. Meg has vanity, envy and a small amount of gluttony that tends to lead her astray. And how many of us suffer from wanting what we cannot have or over-indulging sometimes? Hands up if you’ve never had these vices to contend with. Jo is stubborn and has a tendency to greediness if not for herself but for others that compromises her integrity. Jo has a tendency to be neglectful and occasional rude or at least insensitive to others feelings. Amy has her own share of problems though she has improved from the first book. She still battles with envy, pride and a small amount of greed in her own way. And then there is Beth – not really someone we can identify with because of her faults (she seems to have none) but someone we all wish we were more like.
I think of all the characters in Little Women and Good Wives, my favourite has got to be Jo. It’s weird because I know a number of girls who wouldn’t feel at all like they could identify with topsy turvy Jo. They seem to be able keep their lives ordered – physically and mentally – and are able to be young ladies of virtue. But for me Jo is just like me. Not only do we both enjoy writing but I also find myself struggling with clumsiness and could also be called topsy turvy sometimes. The fact is, though in the book it expressly states that Jo was not the heroine of the story, I think she most definitely was. She was the one, it seemed to me, to hold everyone and everything together in her family. I felt bad when she failed and triumphed with her in her success.
I think that whichever girl you most identify with is the heroine of the story. Whether it is Meg who manages successfully to run a household – with a few mistakes along the way. Or Amy who works hard to overcome her vices and be a good woman. Or even Jo who battles through hard times with her talent and tries desperately to make a success of herself though not always in a pleasing way. And we all know that Beth is a heroine in her own way. All the girls are heroines in their own ways and whichever girl resonates with her reader most is likely to become a heroine in the readers eyes.
All in all, this second installment of the March sisters left me excited and ready to read their story to its end. I want to know how the girls – now women – continue their journey through the lessons that one way or another we all learn. Which March sister is your favourite? And why do you enjoy her story so much? Tell me in the comments below.