It’s Throwback Thursday and my mind is on books again.
Two weeks ago I wrote about childhood reading and claimed that I could not remember a many examples of fiction from childhood. Perhaps I exaggerated. Comments here and in social media reminded me of several: Johnny Tremain, A Light in the Forest, and Misty of Chincoteague to name a few. I did read those, and my love for historical fiction was set in place early. I also devoured Tom Sawyer and Twain’s peculiar sequels, Tom Sawyer Abroad for example. I tried Huckleberry Finn but failed to appreciate it until much later.
I owe one particular author an apology. In the middle grades I became enamored of Louisa Mae Alcott. How could I have forgotten her? Most folks read Little Women. Most girls loved it, and any girl worth her salt identified with the intrepid Jo rather than her good sister Meg, flighty sister Amy, or the pitiable Beth. That one was fine, but I read straight through the rest of her books. I preferred Little Men and loved Jo’s Boys and Under the Lilacs even more. Alcott gave us strong female characters throughout and made the daughter of a traveling family long for a settled life in a small New England town with whitewashed houses, beloved neighbors, ancient trees, and lilacs. For an only child (before my brother appeared belatedly when I was eleven), the family bonds endeared the books to me. Eight Cousins served that part of my fantasy life also.
At thirteen I convinced my parents to take me to Orchard House in Concord Massachusetts, the Alcott home. It more than lived up to my fantasy, with its tall trees, comfortable rooms, and family atmosphere. I thrilled to the sketches on the woodwork by “Amy” (Mae Alcott) in her room under the eaves. I picked up a little about Emerson and Thoreau and their relationship to Amos Bronson Alcott as an unexpected bonus.
I wanted to live there. Sometimes I still do.
Don’t shut yourself up in a bandbox because you are a woman, but understand what is going on, and educate yourself to take your part in the world’s work, for it all affects you and yours.
Lousia May Alcott, Little Women