Previous in the series: Little Women.
Finally, I get to revisit the March family. I was particularly excited to reread Little Men because all I remember about reading it the first time was a confusion of boys’ names. Like the younger siblings in What Katy Did, I struggled to remember which name was attached to which personality, and which children were related, friends, or connected to which others and which adult. I’m glad to say that, this time around, I managed to keep much better track!
Given my marked preference for character development, it will be unsurprising that I most loved the characters who went on a definite journey: Dan, Nat and Jack. The other children — Demi and Daisy and Stuffy and Nan — are all interesting or amusing enough, but they don’t stand out to me the way in quite the same way. And yet, as much as I like characters who learn and grow, what I really appreciated about Little Men was all the hints at continuity. Jo is still the same Jo we left at the end of Little Women, the one who loves to exclaim and romp with Laurie and write down stories. Mr and Mrs March are still the wise presence that they’ve always been.
He seldom spoke of his loss, but Aunt Jo often heard a stifled sobbing in the little bed at night; and when she went to comfort him, all his cry was, “I want my Father! oh, I want my father!” for the tie between the two had been a very tender one, and the child’s heart bled when it was broken.”Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
Though I don’t love Little Men as much as Little Women, Louisa May Alcott’s writing can still make me tear up. I was particularly touched, this time around, by Nat’s story and all the descriptions of music and singing, especially as I’ve just been back to choir for the first time in eighteen months. It really is a joy to be able to sing with people and not worry about bothering my neighbours or being criticised for sounding ‘weird’ when I’m singing the harmony rather than the tune.
They chose a song he knew; and after one or two false starts they got going, and violin, flute, and piano led a chorus of boyish voices that made the old roof ring again.Little Men, Louisa May Alcott
It feels weird to review Little Men now, knowing that the stories continue in Jo’s Boys. It definitely feels as though something is missing, which hopefully will be delivered when I reread that final volume. I think, compared to Little Women, Little Men is a little more shallow, as it would almost have to be, with its much larger cast of main characters. Still, it was nice to dip back into Louisa May Alcott’s writing, and I look forward to doing so again before too long.
Next in the series: Jo’s Boys.