12 January 2016

When I was ten years old, I read a book that changed my life and Louisa May Alcott became my hero. Reading her most successful and famous book, Little Women, changed the way I viewed literary heroines. Jo March was the person I wanted to be. She wasn’t a beautiful rose, an elegant teenager, a perfect daughter or a studious schoolgirl. She was plain, impetuous, passionate, stubborn, wilful and loved reading and writing. This girl was right up my alley. I wanted to be her.

She was a tomboy, she lost her temper, she cut off her beautiful hair when the family needed money, she tore her dresses and most of all she never conformed. Jo pushed every boundary and questioned every rule. She also spent all of her spare time, reading and writing – which I could identify with as that was the way I spent my time. Reading and writing were my passions from as far back as I can remember.

Whenever I was having a bad day at school, I’d come home, curl up on my bed with a book and my faithful cat, Truly Scrumptious (named after the character in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – and yes I know it’s a ridiculous name for a cat!).

Those hours spent reading were always soothing. The beauty of being able to disappear into a story is magical. A good book, like Little Women, will transport you from your mundane life into the world of warm, wonderful characters living in different times, in different continents and yet still experiencing a lot of the same ups and downs you are.

In Little Women, Jo also gets rejected on her first attempts at writing a novel, something that is all too familiar to me. I could have wallpapered my entire apartment with rejection letters for my first book. But Jo gets up, dusts herself down and keeps trying. I often thought of her when I wrote The Baby Trail, which was my first book to be published.

But I have a big problem – HUGE – with the ending of this book.

Little Women

Jo should have married Laurie

It still bothers me (35 years later!) that her youngest sister, Amy, was the one who ended up with gorgeous, dashing, kind, millionaire Laurie. Jo deserved to be with him, he adored her, he understood her and he was her best friend.

Penniless Professor Bhaer wasn’t what I wanted for Jo. After a childhood struggling to make ends meet, I wanted her to marry Laurie and live a life of luxury and happiness and never have to worry about money again. She would have had a lovely study in which to write her novels and a warm house and food on the table every night.

But for some reason Alcott decided that Jo would continue to struggle on with Professor Bhaer while selfish Amy lolled about in the lap of luxury with Laurie. It just doesn’t seem right!

Related articles