It turns out that what most people think of as the book Little Women, is actually both it and its sequel Good Wives published together as one – so I was quite shocked when I thought I’d finished the book, only to find that there was still so much more to be read. Personally, I think the two books are so distinct, that it’s strange that they’re generally considered as one. They weren’t even published as one!
The first book was all about the lessons Meg, Beth, Jo and Amy learned from their mother during a particularly significant year in their lives as young adults and in this book, we get to see how they put those lessons to use as they branch out into the world.
The lives of all four of them go in very different directions. Meg settles down and has a child with her husband, Beth continues to struggle with the illness which she narrowly survived at the end of the previous book, Jo tries to make it as a writer and Amy is given the opportunity to tour across Europe.
I really like the way that their lives suddenly become much broader and that they’re all taken in very different directions – it contrasts nicely with their childhood in the first book, where everything seemed to be of a significantly smaller scale and they were always together. Alcott has done a good job of highlighting the changes between child and adult life.
I also really enjoyed watching the evolution of each of the sisters’ relationships with Laurie change as they grow into young (or should I say little?) women. Their simple friendships become more complex and Laurie himself undergoes an interesting character arc which I thought was pretty well done and nicely progressive. He felt much more developed in this book when compared to the first one.
Overall, I’d say that this is a sequel which definitely improves over the original. The first book created some interesting characters and established who they were and what each of them stood for – this book then casts them into the world and puts these characters to the test, it lets us find out how they respond to the world. It’s an all round excellent book – although I did feel disappointed with Beth’s ultimate fate, I did enjoy every other aspect.