Friday, December 21, 2007


Now I am going to be prim, proper, old-fashioned and very girlish all at once, in keeping with the book I am reading and the mood it has put me in.

I first read Little Women when I was eight or nine, and soon it was forgotten, for I was probably not old enough to understand it completely. The only thing I remembered in it was a party- full of stuck-up, vain girls- that one of the girls went to. The second time I read the book I was thirteen. My English teacher happened to ask us girls one day in class if we’d read Little Women, and while everybody else replied in the negative, the memories started coming back to me, and I was very eager to read it all over again. A classmate bagged the only copy in the school library before I did, and I struck a deal with her to make sure I got my hands on it the next week.

Some weeks ago, when I walked into Crossword, there was this little green volume with the name Little Women on it in white, all beguiling and enticing, and I knew I had to get to know the March family and the "Laurence boy" all over again. So here I am, reading this bright, sunshiny story for the third time. This time, I know what’s coming in the book, for I have seen the movie quite a few times. Now I know it wasn’t a perfect interpretation of the book, but I enjoyed it. Of course, there’s nothing quite like reading the book, and it’s sure to become one of my most-thumbed books alongside Anne of Green Gables and the three Katy volumes. Much as I enjoy books of almost all kinds, I can never outgrow these delightful tales of innocent girlhood. These are classic stories, full of goodness and warmth and fun, and can never be replaced by chick-lit or any other pretentious, decked-up, sometimes nonsensical, girl stuff that’s written now.

I don’t think I’m imagining it when I feel American women writers were more informal and easy in their prose than their British counterparts. I’m talking of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries here, and I know things have changed now. My limited knowledge perhaps deceives me, but there is more warmth and cheer in the styles of Susan Coolidge, Louisa May Alcott and Lucy Maud Montgomery (a Canadian writer) than in those of Jane Austen or the Bronte sisters. The American women wrote of and for young girls; the British women were more formal and sober in their choice of subjects, sometimes imparting an overall gloomy effect to their works. I have no idea whom the critics appreciated better; but if I were a writer and had to choose my subject, I do think I’d decide on something that made my readers happy about their lives. We do need serious writing and books that make us think, but it’s books that are simple with familiar-seeming characters that are most inviting. (Frivolity at work?)

Digressing a bit, the first winter rain fell a couple of days ago. It started off as a drizzle, and as I went out for a walk, fell more heavily. The raindrops were light and soft and caressing, but never stinging. It was dark, no stars were to be seen, and the rain-kissed breeze was delicately scented by the damp earth. I wanted a few days of rain, to make the straggly, yellowish scrub on the mostly rocky face of the nearby hill a refreshing green again; to beat a rhythm on the fronds of the lonely palm tree. That was not to be, as the next morning, the sun shone bright in a clear sky streaked with the whitest clouds. (Today, the sky is irreproachably blue again, with not even a speck of cloud to mar its glory.) But I am being selfish, aren’t I, in praying for rain, when even the smallest hint of a chill in the air is sending pavement-dwellers scurrying for cover? It is all very well for people sheltered in expensive homes to talk about the weather, but what of the poor living in slums or by the roadside, who are always at the mercy of the elements or of other people? So I have decided to leave the weather alone for a bit, and appreciate whatever I’m given.

I must go back to the March sisters again, for I have spent quite a lot of time away from this much-beloved book. I shall not know peace until I finish it, even if I know the story. I am dying to know what scrape Jo is going to get herself into, next.


Arun said...

what a lovely post!! excellent lines..and uh ya read lil women when you were eight? I was still reading only comic-books(tinkle) then :)...I havent seen or read little women..yet..

Jaya S said...

Arun, I still read Tinkle :). I don't think you'd enjoy Little's a little too sentimental. But you can give it a shot, if you're up to it.