I am absolutely living for the new adaptation of Little Women coming out at the end of this year, directed by Greta Gerwig and featuring a true all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Laura Dern, Saoirse Ronan, and Timothée Chalamet. Just the promo stills of those last two have me utterly swooning. There are many things I am already doing to prepare: burning my most fragrant candles, bathing with my freshest potions and unguents, purifying my body with pungent herbs. But I wanted to give you a list that was a little less ritualistic and a little more practical.
1. (Re)Read Little Women
Let’s be real. The source material is essential. We have to admit that it gets a little slack in Part 2. And we might have to note how it gets awfully preachy. Plus I struggle with its version of a happy ending for Jo. I’ll never say it’s not flawed, but I love it all the same.
2. (Re)Watch Little Women
There are many options to choose from; I say watch them all. The 1994 Little Women is my personal favorite because it is Of My Time and the chemistry between Christian Bale’s Laurie and Winona Ryder’s Jo is undeniable and delicious. But the 1993 version with Katherine Hepburn and the more recent BBC adaptation are worthy watches. And if you get a chance to see a stage adaptation, lucky you!
3. Ditch the Hogwarts Houses; Sort by March Sister
It works! Roughly, you’ve got Meg as Ravenclaw, Jo as Griffyndor, Beth as Hufflepuff, and Amy as Slytherin. Now you too can sort anyone into their March sister. Obviously, most of us want to be Jos; have you noticed there’s usually more Griffyndor merch available than for the other houses? It’s also fun to take a cast of four characters and sort them by March sister. I will leave as exercises for the reader: the casts of Sex and the City, Girls, Derry Girls, and Golden Girls.
4. Read Related Works
You could read some of the texts mentioned within the texts. Pilgrim’s Progress seemed exciting to me as a kid because the March sisters lived by it so earnestly. In fact, I’d prefer to read more contemporary works inspired by Little Women. Especially:
Iced in Paradise by Naomi Hirahara: a loose retelling of Little Women set in Hawaii, with added murder mystery!
March Sisters: On Life, Death, and Little Women by Kate Bolick, Jenny Zhang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Jane Smiley: reflections by four writers on a lifelong engagement with the text
Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel by by Rey Terciero and Bre Indigo: a modern graphic retelling of Little Women featuring a blended family and LGBTQ+ characters
5. Listen to This American Life.
Episode 680, “The Weight of Words,” has a segment featuring Shamyla, whose all time favorite book is Little Women, for heart-wrenching reasons. It’s an absolute must-listen episode that reminds us how books connect us to our own humanity, and how particular texts can become sacred to us.
6. Watch Lady Bird
The chemistry between Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet is hilariously and mortifyingly absent in this warm, lovely coming-of-age movie, but the film demonstrates how much care Greta Gerwig puts into even minor characters. It bolsters my confidence that Little Women will be a masterpiece, and I have faith Saoirse and Timothée can turn their anti-chemistry into fireworks.
7. Listen to the 1994 Little Women Score
I’m listening to the Thomas Newman score as I write this. I might recommend waiting until Thanksgiving or so to fire it up. It has a wintry feel without being overtly Christmassy, which is nice for those of us looking for something seasonal but secular.
8. Start Your Little Women Collection
A fun option if you love a particular book is collecting editions of it. If you’ve got the cash to spare, you could get a genuine first edition! For the rest of us, there are beautifully presented editions, anniversary editions, and annotated editions. You can also get the entire text of the book printed on a poster, scarf, or t-shirt. I haven’t seen action figures yet, but I suspect they’re coming…
9. Watch the Trailer 4,000 Times
It’s the best way to prepare for a movie, right? If you’re tired of the real trailer (though how could that be) you can also watch some remixes. Joe Reid has one remixed with the trailer for a Gerwig-starring movie, Frances Ha, and another for the real 90s kids out there, featuring the theme song to My So-Called Life.
10. Watch Midsommar
Florence Pugh, who will star as Amy in Little Women, also stars in Midsommar. No spoilers on this invigorating movie, but suffice it to say Florence’s character goes full Amy at the end.