I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Little Women and their Pa

Little Women and their Pa

Maurice Earls
I recently visited Orchard House in Concord, Massachusetts. This is the house in which the Alcott family lived and where Louisa May Alcott wrote her famous novel Little Women. It is essentially a work of auto-fiction, closely based on her family’s life in Concord. The story offered the reading public, for the first time, a picture of girls and young women as rounded, struggling human beings, warts and passions and all. The building is now a museum called, “Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House, The Home of Little Women”. I took the tour with a group of women. I did notice one other man around but he was asleep in his car. Although conceived by its author as a story for girls, when the novel appeared in 1868 it quickly became a bestseller and was discussed and enjoyed across society, by readers ranging from bankers to clerks to schoolgirls. Little Women was a publishing sensation and it made Alcott one of the richest women in the US. To achieve that JK Rowling level of success, a work has to have very broad appeal. Yet the absence of men on the tour did not entirely surprise me. Sometime in the interim Little Women ceased to have broad appeal and became solely a “girl’s book”. How that happened I cannot say, but certainly none of my male friends, some of whom are quite prone to referencing books, has ever mentioned Alcott’s work. One of the many fascinating things I learned from our guide was that when the family first arrived at Orchard House, Bronson Alcott, Louisa May’s father, assembled a great team of mules which were then used to haul the sizeable building ‑ it is the one which features in Greta Gerwig’s wonderful film ‑ to what he regarded as a more favourable location on the plot where it stood. The information surprised me as I had not known that such a thing was possible. Our guide pointed out that this was possibly because the house had no foundations but, as if to calm her visitors, she added that the museum authorities had some years previously added foundations to the building. This intelligence further surprised me, as I had not known that such a fundamental matter could be addressed retrospectively. I found myself half-remembering a New Testament parable that touched on that sort of thing. But Bronson, as I already knew, did not believe the New Testament…

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