Little Women was almost ruined for me before I even read it. Which is such a shame, because now that I have read it it’s one of my favourite books.
It all started when I was younger (I don’t recall how young, but sometime between grade three and four perhaps? ). There is this woman who’s friends with my family, but we only see her on occasion. Every time we did see her, she’d bring us presents of some sort. While I was a late reader my love of reading began years ago when I was in grade three, and I guess this woman knew that because she would always give me books. Now, books are never a good option as a gift. Unless you know someone very well, it’s difficult to know what they’d like to read. You’d want to get them a book they’ve yet to read, but how would you know if they’ll even like it? Their are a few “universals” that of course everyone must love, but likely the recipient has either read this book already or they will of course be the one person who doesn’t care for that book. Moral of the rant: don’t buy books for a random friend’s child if you have no idea what they may or may not care to read.
This woman would always bring me books that she obviously bought for less than five dollars at a second-hand bookshop. Look, it was a very sweet gesture, and I’m sure she had the best intentions. Presumably she saw some books that she thought I’d love and picked them up for me, hoping to introduce me to some great, classic-y books. But, of course, she knew little about me and my taste in books so she always managed to miss the mark. Not to mention the fact that even if she had given me Jane freaking Austen at that time in my life I wouldn’t have read it, as I was still partially in the Junie B. Jones stage of my life.
I can only remember a few of the books she brought me over the years, as I mostly just skimmed through them. There was a lot of Nancy Drew, with which she thoroughly missed the mark. I vaguely remember reading through a few of them, but I remember not liking them at all and in the first place I have no use for Mysteries. I’m not even sure if these were the original Nancy Drew books, (although after a quick google search, which led me to this wikipedia article, I’m even more confused about the series as a whole… and it’s authorship… I’m also even more sure that I don’t care to try these books again). I believe there was also a copy of Jane Eyre at some point, but I have reason to believe it was an “abridged” (read “massacred”) edition. There was a picture with a girl on a horse on the cover. I don’t think I so much as opened it. (For the reference, since that time I have read the real Jane Eyre and loved it.)
And speaking of books that have been murdered because people thought it might be fun to re-write them in their own words for the sake of little children’s reading pleasure, she also bought me Little Women, butchered with care by Great Illustrated Classics. I really wanted to read this book and I really wanted to like it. The problem is that even in this new and improved (yes that is biting sarcasm) edition, I was still too stupid to understand what was going on. I didn’t really get the social conventions, historical context or pseudo-old fashioned language. I even revisited it a few times once I was older, but I never really got into it.
The problem with this and other such books is that they’re kind of like spark notes (which I do not endorse… like, what’s the opposite of endorsement?), but, if possible, they’re worse. Yes, I would go as far as to say worse. It’s almost exclusively summary (the absolute epitome of cringe-worthy “telling not showing”), but unlike spark notes, whose sole purpose is so you don’t have to read the book, these you actually have to sit through the entire thing! Furthermore, the entire point isn’t what happened, but how it happened! Every single part that I adored in the real book was absent in the “abridged” version! Who cares that they went to a party, that doesn’t matter, what matters is that “Meg’s high-heeled slippers were very tight and hurt her, though she would not own it, and Jo’s nineteen hairpins all seemed stuck straight into her head, which was not exactly comfortable, but, dear me, let us be elegant or die.”I say, if child is too young to read a real classic, they should wait until they are old enough to appreciate it. There is no need for such mass murder of brilliant prose.
Thankfully, I ended up reading the real book this past summer. Click here to read my thoughts on the real thing.