This really is a delightful and much-loved story. Originally published in the US two parts in 1868 and 1869, 'Little Women' and its sequels follow the lives of four sisters--Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March. It is a fictionalised version of the lives of Louisa Alcott and her three sisters. The author had a hard struggle in life, for her father was an impractical idealist who could not support his family and she had to work from early on in her life. She was an abolitionist and feminist who never married, although she had a romance with a Polish man who is thought to have been the model for Laurie in 'Little Women.' In certain ways, the book was innovative and even revolutionary in its time, intertwining the themes of domesticity, love and work and showing that all of them are necessary for a girl to find her true identity. Women then led very restricted lives. It has been said that Louisa May Alcott created the vision of the 'all-American girl'. The title refers to the fact that these March sisters were no longer children and not yet fully women; they were 'little women.' There is a beautiful and wholesome morality in these stories, where virtue is more important than wealth and creativity more important than success, yet both reasonable wealth and success are shown as desirable for a secure and contented life. It is about God and goodness and self-sacrifice - all pretty un-PC today. Obviously, it is a period piece - it was published in the nineteenth century - but much of its charm is the period setting. It is sentimental. Americans are not afraid of sentimentality; it is we Brits we are too cynical and world-weary to enjoy it. There may be an element of wishful thinking in it, but its central characters are certainly not without flaws and they have to learn to cope in a world which is difficult for a woman to negotiate. On the whole, they do it well and they retain their integrity. This was a tremendous success when it was published and it has been successful ever since, beloved by generations of women and a few men, too. I first read it about sixty years ago and I still love it. Then, it gave me something my own upbringing did not give me - a sense of the importance of family and love and working together and of the lasting values of life and religion. Now, it reminds me not to get too cynical, because those old values have not changed.