Speaking Volumes: 'Little Women' turns 145

Special to the HeraldSeptember 29, 2013 

Louisa May Alcott's classic Civil War era novel, "Little Women," turns 145-years-old this year. Originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869, "Little Women" follows the lives of the March sisters -- Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy -- chronicling their journey from childhood to adulthood.

After the book's successful reception, Alcott wrote two sequels, "Little Men" (1871) and "Jo's Boys" (1886). The triumphs, tragedies and strong connections between the four sisters and their beloved mother, "Marmee," continues to appeal to generations of readers.

Visit your local Manatee County Public Library to find film versions, books featuring characters from the novel, and biographies of Louisa May Alcott.

The library dystem has two film versions of "Little Women" on DVD -- the 1949 version starred June Allyson, Margaret O'Brien, Elizabeth Taylor and Janet Leigh, while the 1994 version featured the Winona Ryder (as headstrong Jo), Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes and Susan Sarandon.

"March," a novel by Geraldine Brooks, imagines the life of Mr. March, the missing character in "Little Women" who serves as a chaplain in the Union Army and ends up sick in both body and spirit. Alcott based the lives of the March family on her own family, including her father -- a man of strong moral principles who struggled to provide for them. A skilled storyteller, Brooks relates the horror of war and slavery, as well as the cruelty and bigotry exhibited on both sides, as seen through the eyes of Mr. March.

Available as a CD audiobook, "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott," Kelly O'Connor McNees's debut novel imagines Louisa at 22, and despite being impatient to begin her career as a writer, instead finds herself in a romantic entanglement with Joseph Singer, a (fictional) young man she meets while she and her family are summering in New Hampshire. The author weaves real and imagined characters and situations in an attempt to explain how Alcott could so convincingly create the relationship between Jo and Laurie in "Little Women."

Eve LaPlante, the author of "Marmee & Louisa: the Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and her Mother," is the great niece of Abigail May Alcott (Louisa's mother) and Louisa's cousin. This groundbreaking dual biography was researched from diaries, letters and personal papers, some recently discovered in the author's attic.

Previous scholarship believed that Louisa's father, Bronson, inspired her progressive thinking and remarkable independence. But readers will discover that it was Abigail May Alcott, a writer, philosopher and political activist in her own right, who truly inspired her daughter to be a strong independent woman and to persevere as a writer.

Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday. Access the library online at www.mymanatee.org/library.html.

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