Well, it's a step towards my reading resolutions. Good, wholesome stuff, so wholesome that I really really need to read some Lovecraft/Alcott crossover fiction. What eldritch lore was Mr Brooke so fascinated by? What did the girls really have in their picnic baskets? What did Amy discover when she fell through the ice? Enquiring minds want to know...
My only two close encounters with this book before I read it were, first, Edward Eager's classic The Time Garden, in which some children from the late 1950s go back almost a century and have an afternoon with the March girls; and second, the attempts of Sandi Toksvig on the BBC's Big Read to persuade us to vote for it. Since it is one of the widely recognised classics of English literature, I went out and bought a Penguin edition combining Little Women, Good Wives and an extensive critical apparatus of endnotes and editorial preface; and bounced pretty much straight off it.
Anne reminded me that we also had a copy of hers in the house, and indeed it turned out to be one she had been awarded as a school prize when she was ten; a battered old Puffin edition, with illustrations by Shirley Hughes. Somehow I found this much more approachable; it was much easier to keep the characters of the girls sorted out with the visual reminder that they were all different sizes.
So I read it - it's easy enough going - and I can see why people like a novel of well-drawn mainly female characters, of a family under stress. But I found it all really too wholesome for me - I almost cheered when Meg drank too much champagne and got hungover, but that is the closest we get to debauchery. I was complaining the other day about authors who stretch me too much; I'm afraid this didn't really stretch me enough.