For starters, it took longer. And obviously that's something I expected because, you know, it's twice as long; but that's not why it took longer. Nope, once I got onto the second part, I significantly slowed my reading- I didn't want the things that I now knew happened to happen, and so, the slower I read, the slower they would unfold. I wasn't timing myself or anything, but it probably took me twice as long to read the second half than the first half (although- this was partially down to the fact that I started reading A Short History of Nearly Everything part of the way through as well, which was nigh on unputdownable). And it's not like the second half isn't well written! I love that Meg still gets a look-in even though she's married (much of literature just ignoring or writing off married women) and her domestic episodes are some of the funniest moments of the second part. But. There's just so much sadness, and Laurie gets all unhappy which I don't approve of, and (I'm hoping we all know this by now) Beth dies! Which just isn't on and I can't even cope with it so let's pretend it just doesn't happen, yes?
Because, damn, I love those Little Women. I do. I think I fall in love with them around the bit where they give their lovely Christmas breakfast away to the poor German family that lives in the woods, and my love for them never goes away, which makes their sadnesses in the second part so much harder to bear. And when I say I love them, I obviously don't mean Amy because, you know, annoying and also (SPOILER) Laurie how could you?! I mean, I don't even really think that Jo and Laurie should have gotten married (even though, when Little Women used to end in the middle I definitely imagined them getting married eventually, for young friendship to blossom into love) but Amy?! Seriously?! That girl rubs me up in all the wrong ways, even though she gets much more bearable in the second part, I still can't forgive her for burning Jo's book... (END SPOILER).
I don't know about you, but from pretty much every book I read as a child, I had my favourite characters. My favourite babysitter's club member was Dawn, and my favourite Wakefield twin was Jessica, and my favourite March sister was, without a doubt, Beth. I still love her so much- she has this whole quiet calm thing going on, and you know that just her presence would soothe you and make everything seem right with the world. And I'm pretty sure that she's also Alcott's favourite sister, which may well have influenced my love of her from the very start, because, well, just have a look at this:
"There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully, that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind."I mean, just, *sigh*, you know? And may I add that that little ditty comes on page THIRTY NINE of my copy, so let's just say, Beth's death? Not entirely unexpected, although still indescribably painful and upsetting. Nowadays when I read Little Women, I definitely identify with and admire Jo a lot more, but my heart and my reading memory is reserved for Beth, and her sweet and shy and, lets face it, wonderful ways. MAN, I love her!
So, to summarise: Beth is awesome, Jo is also awesome, and Little Women is awesome, although the first part will always be more awesome to me, if only because of much exposure to it in my childhood. My continuing love for Little Women isn't based only on nostalgia though- the characters are still as wonderful and as vivid to me as they always were, and even though the second part of the story isn't always to my liking, being able to spend more time in the company of these beloved characters long after my childhood had ended was a really unexpected and lovely treat. I will always love the Marches, and will never have to be convinced much to spend time in their lovely, although at times difficult, little Massachusetts world.