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Little Women (Norton Critical Editions)

Little Women (Norton Critical Editions) (Paperback) by Louisa M. Alcott (Author), Gregory Eiselein (Editor), Anne K Phillips (Editor), Anne K. Phillips (Author)

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Product Description

This authoritative, accurate text of the first edition (1868-69) of Little Women is accompanied by textual variants and thorough explanatory annotations.

"Backgrounds and Contexts" includes a wealth of archival materials, among them previously unpublished correspondence with Thomas Niles and Alcott's own precursors to Little Women.

"Criticism" reprints twenty nineteenth-century reviews. Seven modern essays represent a variety of critical theories used to read and study the novel, including feminist (Catharine R. Stimpson, Elizabeth Keyser), new historicist (Richard H. Brodhead), psychoanalytic (Angela M. Estes and Kathleen Margaret Lant), and reader-response (Elizabeth Vincent) .

A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

Contemporary Reviews

A rather light review from the December 1868 issue of Putnam's Monthly Magazine of American Literature, Science and Art

A slightly less condescending but also mixed review of the second part in the July 1869 issue of the same magazine

Other Reviews

5 out of 5 stars Little Women, An American Classic - The Norton Edition Is Excellent!, July 16, 2005

By Jana L. Perskie "ceruleana" (New York, NY USA) (TOP 100 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)       

I first read Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women" the summer between 4th and 5th grades. I was absolutely riveted by the story and characters and clearly remember sitting on the porch steps, my nose in the book. I cried when I reached the conclusion, because I was afraid that I had just read the best book in the world, and that I would never find anything else as good. The local librarian convinced me otherwise. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough - for people of all ages. It will always have a special place in my heart.

Ms. Alcott writes about four young women, living in New England, during a period of much strife in America - the Civil War. They are self sufficient, creative and well educated, and each chooses a different life path, traditional and non. Considering the period when the book was written, the author's views on opportunities open to females, restricted though they were by society, is refreshing and liberating. Of course, this was not my focus as a nine year-old. The novel is long, but that never bothered me as a young girl, or much later when I reread it. I didn't want the story to end, actually.

Sisters Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March and their beloved Marmee, (who offers her daughters guidance, comfort and unconditional love), learn to live in genteel poverty while their father, a doctor, is away treating wounded soldiers. This beautifully written classic, chronicles the girls' adolescence through womanhood, with all their trial, tribulations, and joys.

Much of the novel focuses on Jo, the second daughter, and a gifted writer. She is very much a tomboy, and an avid reader who writes plays which the girls act-out with delight and exuberance. When they meet their new next-door neighbor, the wealthy, lonely Theodore Laurence, (called Laurie), they befriend him and invite him to become the only male member of their exclusive theater ensemble. Laurie becomes an important person in all of their lives, and the March family in his. Margaret, (Meg), the oldest, is quite lovely - a young woman with traditional values and tastes. Sensitive Elizabeth, (Beth), is the most fragile sister -quiet, caring and timid. And Amy, the youngest, is a gifted artist, with a tremendous sense of self-importance.

Together they cope with their father's absence and their fear for his safety, severe illness in the family, a death, lack of money precluding many of life's small luxuries, romance, love, marriage and many glorious adventures. In the second part of the novel, Meg marries, Jo's writing becomes a priority, as does Amy's art. During a time of impoverishment, they learn how good it feels to give to those who are much needier than themselves. This aspect of the book is very moving. Ms Alcott brings her characters to life on the page. All of them, even minor personages, are extremely well developed.

"Little Women" was first published in two parts in 1868 and 1869. The author drew from her own childhood experiences to dramatize the lives of the March family. The character "Marmee" is based on her own mother, Abigail May, (Abba), Alcott, whom she described as having: "A great heart that was home for all." Like Marmee, Abba was loving and passionate about women's rights, temperance, and abolition. A truly compelling and wise novel!

Anne K. Phillips, associate professor of English and assistant head of the English department at Kansas State University, is co-editor of the Norton Critical Edition of "Little Women" and "The Louisa May Alcott Encyclopedia," along with Gregory Eiselein, professor and director of graduate studies in English at Kansas State.

Phillips was awarded a University Small Research Grant in January 2002 to examine the first editions of "Little Women" at the Houghton Library at Harvard University, in connection with the development of the Norton Critical Edition.

This edition also provides the authoritative, accurate text of the first edition (1868-69) of "Little Women," accompanied by textual variants and explanatory annotations. Backgrounds and Contexts" includes a wealth of archival materials, among them previously unpublished correspondence and Alcott's own precursors to the novel. Twenty nineteenth-century reviews provide critiques and seven modern essays represent a variety of critical theories used to read and study the novel. A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

This is an outstanding edition and the additional academic information makes for richer reading and study. The editing is first-rate and each edition is printed on acid-free paper. Makes a wonderful addition to any library.


5 out of 5 stars From "Little Women" to "Good Wives", August 26, 2005

By E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) (TOP 10 REVIEWER) (REAL NAME)

Louisa May Alcott wrote many books, but "Little Women" retains a special place in the heart of American literature. Her warmly realistic stories, sense of comedy and tragedy, and insights into human nature make the romance, humor and sweet stories of "Little Women" come alive.

The four March girls -- practical Meg, rambunctious Jo, sweet Beth and childish artist Amy -- live in genteel poverty with their mother Marmee; their father is away in the Civil War. Despite having little money, the girls keep their spirits up with writing, gardening, homemade plays, and the occasional romp with wealthier pals. Their pal, "poor little rich boy" Laurie, joins in and becomes their adoptive brother, as the girls deal with Meg's first romance, Beth's life-threatening illness, and fears for their father's safety.

The second half of the book opens with Meg's wedding (if not to the man of her dreams, then to the man she loves). Things rapidly go awry after the wedding, when Laurie admits his true feelings to Jo -- only to be rejected. Distraught, he leaves; Amy also leaves on a trip to Europe with a picky old relative. Despite the deterioration of Beth's health, Jo makes her way into a job as a governess, seeking to put her treasured writing into print -- and finds her destiny as well.

There's a clearly autobiographical tone to "Little Women." Not surprising -- the March girls really are like the girls next door. Alcott wrote them with flaws and strengths, and their misadventures -- like Amy's embarrassing problem with her huge lobster -- have the feeling of authenticity. How much of it is real? A passage late in the book portrays Alcott -- in the form of Jo -- "scribbling" down the book itself, and getting it published because it feels so real and true.

Sure, usually classics are hard to read. But "Little Women" is mainly daunting because of its length; the actual stories flow nicely and smoothly. Don't think it's just a book for teenage girls, either -- adults and boys can appreciate it as well. There's something for everyone: drama, romance, humor, sad and happy endings alike.

Alcott's writing itself is nicely detailed. While certain items are no longer in common use (what IS a charabanc anyway?), Alcott's stories themselves seem very fresh and could easily be seen in a modern home. And as nauseating as "heartwarming" stories sometimes are, these definitely qualify. Sometimes, especially in the beginning, Alcott is a bit too preachy and hamhanded. But her touch becomes defter as she writes on.

Jo is the quintessential tomboy, and the best character in the book: rough, gawky, fun-loving, impulsive, with a love of literature and a mouth that is slightly too big. Meg's love of luxury adds a flaw to the "perfect little homemaker" image, and Beth just avoids being shown as too saintly. Amy is an annoying little brat throughout much of the first half of the book, but by her teens she's almost as good as Jo.

"Little Women" is one of those rare classic novels that is still relevant, funny, fresh and heartbreaking today. Louisa May Alcott's best-known novel is a magnificent achievement.

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