both these adaptations include serious and sustained depictions of Jowriting in her garret, and both films honor the tumult of emotions thatJo and also Marmee experience as the sisters grow into adulthood. AsMarmee in the BBC adaptation, Emily Watson must occasionally leavethe room to regain her composure. The camera follows her to show whatthe girls don’t see: Marmee undone by anger or frustration. Worry playsacross her face as she watches Beth, depicted as pathologically shy byWelsh actor Annes Elwy, try and fail in multiple days’ attempts simplyto walk next door to the Laurences’ house. Watson’s Marmee is morecomposed in the series’ final scene, which finds the family assembledon the grounds of Plumfield, the Bhaers’ school. “Nothing’s ever perfect,” intones Meg (Willa Fitzgerald) after Jo points out her own grayinghair. In response, Jo (Maya Hawke) turns toward her mother, asserting,“But things can be just right.” “Yes, they can,” Marmee replies serenely,but her enigmatic smile flattens as Jo turns away, and again the viewerglimpses what Marmee hides: contentment is fleeting.
Anne Boyd Rioux’s Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women andWhy It Still Matters (2018) includes some of the same modes of assessment as Clark’s earlier work. Rioux is a professor of English at the University of New Orleans and the author or editor of five prior scholarlybooks about American women writers. With Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy, Rioux addresses a general rather than an academic audience. Her deeplyresearched and very readable study is divided into three parts. Part I,“The Making of a Classic,” sketches Alcott’s biography and the forcesleading her to write Little Women; it also considers the reception historyof the novel while commenting on a number of notable editions amongthe hundreds that were published between 1868 and the present. LikeClark, Rioux offers close readings of some of theillustrations for these editions. (Both Clark’s andRioux’s books include a few reproductions of illustrations; The Annotated Little Women ,edited by John Matteson, contains many more,
Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of
Little Women and Why It Still Matters
Anne Boyd Rioux. W. W. Norton,
2018, 288 pp., $16.95 (paper)