The Great American Read

S1 E6 | CLIP

Little Women

Gayle King and others discuss Louisa May Alcott's novel, Little Women.

AIRED: October 09, 2018 | 0:03:28

- [Narrator] One of the most famous American novels

about family love is also capturing many of your votes:

the 1868 classic Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott.

- Little Women is one of our shared joys.

- Yes, and we read it together growing up.

- With our mom. - With our mom,

she would read it to us.

- And one of the incredible things

was her mom read it to her.

So I remember when she first cracked open Little Women.

She was like, "This was my favorite book growing up,

"and Grammy read it to me,"

and there was something so impactful about thinking

of our mom as a little girl, laying in her mom's arms.

- [Narrator] Little Women follows the adventures

of the tightly-knit March sisters,

as they come of age in New England

around the time of the Civil War.

The story centers around the second-oldest sister, Jo,

who dreams of being a writer.

- There was this group of sisters who loved each other,

and stuck up for each other even when tragedy struck,

or even when romance sort of got in the way,

and reading it with my sister

was pretty cool.

I can't wait to read it to my girls.

- Reading was important to me as a little girl,

because when I lived in Ankara, Turkey,

from first grade to sixth grade,

and we didn't have television.

You know, my library card was

one of my favorite possessions.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

I can remember that as being one of the first books I read

that I thought, wow, there's a book that's kind of like us.

No matter who you meet in your life,

nobody is gonna be closer to you than your siblings.

So in Little Women, I loved the relationship

and the dynamic between the four sisters.

And I think that's why I gravitated to that book.

- [Narrator] In writing Little Women,

Alcott drew inspiration from her own life,

for better or for worse.

Unlike the compassionate and gentle father in the novel,

her real father, Amos Bronson,

was said to be intense and overbearing.

But Alcott was close with her three sisters,

and she reflected that in the characters she created.

- The thing that really struck me was the role

of female friendship, and the love of female friendship.

That's a portrayal of love we don't often see

done positively in books or TV or media.

- [Christina] Beth's voice gave way,

and, clinging to her sister,

she cried so despairingly that Jo was frightened.

"Where is it?

"Shall I call Mother?"

"No, no, don't call her.

"Don't tell her.

"I shall be better soon.

"Lie down here and 'poor' my head.

"I'll be quiet and go to sleep.

"Indeed I will."

Jo obeyed, but as her hand went softly to and fro

across Beth's hot forehead and wet eyelids,

her heart was very full, and she longed to speak.

- In Little Women, the thing that's so interesting

about the family is that each person

plays a very different role.

And it's a kind of primer on human personality

and especially in women, and the notion

of strength and vulnerability in women.

- I'm Gayle King.

My vote: Little Women.