Thursday, 23 December 2010

Christmas won't be Christmas... Miriam Halahmy

 ...without any presents, “ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
Growing up reading Little Women is one of my most enduring memories of Christmas. My mother gave me her copy when I was nine. It had been a birthday present to her from her siblings when she was a child before the war and I passed it on to my daughter.

Mum’s book even appeared in The Independent. They did a feature on lists by well known people and then invited readers to send in their own. This is mine.

Five things I can’t live without (The Independent 26.8.04)

My polar library
Twice daily reflux pills
Tap water – yes, London vintage
Mum’s pre-war copy of Little Women
with a single black and white plate
him indoors

Which character were you? I was Jo, climbing trees in ankle length skirts, getting into scrapes, reading all day on her bed with a bag of apples, my head full of dreams about becoming a writer. I couldn’t be good little Beth, Amy was far too pretty and spoilt and Meg was a woman!
Little Women were my surrogate sisters. In real life I was the sandwich between two lively brothers. Probably that explains a lot of the appeal of tomboy Jo. I used to follow my brothers up every tree, usually falling on the way down.

At nine I marvelled when Jo was told off for using slang by Amy, “we are a pretty jolly set....” Crikey! But fortunately when Jo and Amy scrap dear sweet Beth is there to make peace. “Bird in their little nests agree,” sang Beth.
I loved the narrator who spoke to us in the voice of a kindly aunt. “As young readers like to know how people look we will take this moment to give them a little sketch of the four sisters, who sat knitting away in the twilight, while the December snow fell quietly without, and the fire crackled within.” Totally absorbing, I wouldn’t raise my eyes from the page until Mum yelled at me to lay the table.

Little Women takes us gently through adversity, poverty, separation through war, love, friendship, sibling rivalry, sibling loyalty and death. I still remember the first time I read about Beth’s brush with death and of course the terrible death of the Hummel baby. Through it all we learn to be a pilgrim with our packs on our bags. The religious stuff went over my head but I loved the challenge.

And then of course there is the boyfriend - gorgeous, funny, attentive, rich Laurie next door. He even has a piano for poor Beth! I never really understood why he and Jo didn’t get married but of course silly little Amy had to morph into sensible and mature before the dear reader would accept her as Laurie’s good wife.

If you have time over the festive season, join me in Christmas with the Little Women.


karen ball said...

Oh, how I loved Little Women! The shock when Jo gets all her hair cut off. Yes, did this novel play a part in my wanting to be a writer? It was one of several hardback books I was allowed to buy each year with a book voucher from Sunday School. Sunday School! Such innocent days... Thank you for this lovely blog post.

Lynda Waterhouse said...

Happy Holidays Miriam. That notebook looks wonderful.Your post led me to my bookshelf to my Mum's copy of the Girls of Gwynfa by Elsie Jeanette Oxenham. It was her Sunday School prize. This English Civil war adventure story , with a tinge of romance will be a perfect Chrismas re-read.

Savita Kalhan said...

I grew up with FOUR sisters, and Little Women! And I so wanted to be Jo. I'm going to have to go up to the loft, which is insulated with walls upon walls of bookshelves and find my copy now! Lovely post, Miriam. Merry Christmas!

hilary said...

Lovely to read, Miriam! I have a polar library too, and am at present mesmerised by my annual reading of The Worst Journey in the World.

Also, in homage to Jo I own a copy of Undine. And long to encounter a pickled lime...

Happy Christmas,

Miriam Halahmy said...

Glad this got everyone going. And Hilary, The Worst Journey in the World is one of my all time fave books.

Charlie Butler said...

I wonder... has anyone ever identified with any sister other than Jo?

Miriam Halahmy said...

Well I think I was always in awe of Meg but part of me would love to have been so cool and grown up - even with that awful business with the gloves when she went to the party.

Leslie Wilson said...

I was Jo, of course, thought Meg was awfully dull, I'm afraid, though I know what you mean about her coolness and always knowing what to do - I realised I'd never be able to aspire to that!!!

adele said...

JO, every time, in spite of never having been able to climb a tree. My favourite children's book ever. Love it! Thanks for this super post and a happy time to all ABBA bloggers and readers!