Rocking your world–on different rockers

Little WomenI read two blogs by writer friends lately—thank you, Vicki Batman and Ava Cuvay–that talked about favorites and books that “rocked your world.” Like everyone else who’s ever opened a book, I have some, ones that hold warm places in my reader’s heart whether I’ve read them ten times, like Gone With the Wind, or only once, like Sense and Sensibility. However, if I could have only one very favorite book to spend my desert island years with, it would have to be Little Women. This was the book that made me know at the age of nine or so what I wanted to do when I grew up. Who I wanted to be.

This is the book I literally wore the covers off of—more than once. It’s the one I actively seek out movie adaptations of and watch them—yes, more than once. I even use pieces of it in my own books. The bookstore in Back to McGuffey’s is called Louisa’s Garret. One of Grace’s cats in One More Summer is called Louisa May. The bed and breakfast in Because of Joe is called Plumfield and the rooms are—surprise!—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy.

And I remember. I remember celebrating the rightness of the way things happened. Meg and John Brooke’s courtship and marriage. The birth of the twins, Daisy and Demi. That Jo cut her hair. That Mr. Laurence gave Beth a piano.

I remember crying, oh my gosh, so hard when Beth died. When Jo spurned Laurie. When Laurie proposed to Amy. When Jo and Professor Bhaer walked under the umbrella.

But, you know, I’m a grownup now. I should have put away childish things like my love for this book. But I haven’t. Because, like the way I love my husband of 44 years and my kids and grandkids, the love I have for this book changes and remains (to me) interesting.

Although I was heartbroken that Jo didn’t marry Laurie, I loved Professor Bhaer, too, and I was good with Jo marrying him. I have never—and it’s been 50-some years in case you’re counting—been good with Laurie marrying Amy. Because she married his money and he married Jo’s sister.

But things change.

I still love Professor Bhaer, but it’s no longer okay with me that Jo married him. He should have waited until John Brooke died (it was only ten years) and married Meg. Or, better yet, Beth should have lived and he could have married her. Amy should have married Fred Whatshisname (also for his money) and puttered around Europe, only showing up back in Concord to pass around expensive gifts and put on airs.

Because, you know, Laurie and Jo never fell out of love. Ever. I know that just as certainly as I know Scarlett got Rhett back. (I knew this without Alexandra Ripley having told me so. In fact, I wish she hadn’t, but that’s a different post.)

Just as my feelings about “how things came out” in Little Women change, so does how I think about other things. One of my favorite movies ever is The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. I watch it a few times a year. Laughing. Cherishing. But if a new movie came out with a hero who manhandled the woman he loved the way Sean did Mary Kate, I wouldn’t watch it. Not for one minute. In the vintage one, though, it’s the tenderness that grabs and holds me—and I can’t find that in a new movie no matter how hard I look. The portrayal of that is something that has changed and I wish it hadn’t.

What book (or movie) maintains its place in your heart and on your shelf even though your feelings about it may have changed? Or not.

Merry Christmas!


Rocking your world–on different rockers — 12 Comments

  1. Great post and how amazing that, once again, we are on the same page about Little Women. I’ve read it at least 100 times…that and two others, Agnes Sligh Turnbull’s THE ROLLING YEARS and Rachel Fields’s ALL THIS AND HEAVEN TOO. My copies of each are tattered, but loved. And I would change things about both stories, although the Fields book is a true story. Isn’t it funny how as you grow older, you find things in the story that bug you, but you still love the story. Your analysis of Little Women was right where I come down as an adult–particularly Laurie and Jo. They belong together and they always will! 😉

  2. Love this post, Liz! Last year I got sucked into a modern-day, christmas re-telling of Little Women and…gah, it was so good! (more about it here:

    As much as I love Little Women, the movie/book that I’m really attached to is The Princess Bride. I worry – every single time! – that Westley won’t find Buttercup in the lightning sand, that Humperdinck will really succeed in killing Westley in the Pit of Despair and that Inigo will never find the 6 Fingered Man. I love how gentle Fezzick is (with everyone) and I love how strongly Buttercup holds on to her love for Westley. And the book! oh, the book…it adds more depth to the movie and makes me wish there really was a Florin and that maybe Vizzini could have been redeemed. And I wonder – did Inigo become a great pirate? Did he find a woman to love? And what about Fezzick? …and on and on and on.

  3. Yep, add me to the Jo and Laurie should-have-beens. Although in the movie version I like, I must admit I’m hard-put not to cheer for Rossano Brazzi’s Professor Bhaer. That version with June Allyson as Jo and Peter Lawford as Laurie is my favorite–but it’s usually only found on the classic movie TV networks.

    • I like the June Allyson version very well, too. I also think the one with Susan Sarandon and Wynona Ryder was excellent, which surprised me because I usually don’t care that much for newer remakes. I thought the cast was outstanding!

  4. Hi, Liz! I’m flattered you liked my blog so much. I sit in front of four bookcases loaded with favorites and every so often, one calls me to reread. It’s funny having books, my best friends, hanging over my shoulder. This year, I read M M Kaye’s murder mysteries. She’s known for the Far Pavilions, but I like the mysteries best.

    As for movies, I love The Quiet Man and John Wayne should have won an Academy Award.

    Several years ago, I discovered a Christmas short film, A Star in the Night. Set in the late forties in the desert, it is a retelling of the Nativity Story. I get sobby watching it.

    If you’re interested–

    Merry Christmas!

  5. My favorite book isn’t a romance and neither is my favorite movie. Both were written by the same author and changed me forever. Somehow the stories touched me on an emotional level that still stays with me. The book is HMS Ulysses and the movie is the Guns of Navarone. Both by Alistair MacLean. Great post, Liz. Wishing you a Happy Holidays and the best in the New Year.

    • It’s so funny about tastes, isn’t it? I’ve never been able to warm up to The Guns of Navaronne, no matter how much I like Gregory Peck–and that’s a lot! Thanks for coming by, Stanalei–Merry Christmas.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *