By Bianca Smith • April 26, 2018
We couldn't let the latest adaptation of such a beloved novel go unreported. Louisa May Alcott's 1868 novel Little Women is a BBC One/PBS Masterpiece mini-series. It screened in the UK at Christmas and has its US premiere on May 13.
Early reviews describe this adaptation as loved and detested as the novel itself. Heidi Thomas, who brilliantly adapted Call The Midwife, has created this version—her version. It may not match your memories of the story. As it's primarily a BBC production, many of the cast are British doing American accents. So adaptations aside (because we'll never get consensus), let's talk Little Women trivia. It's nearly 150 years since the novel was first published, and Jo and the March sisters have entertained and inspired so many readers over the years.
Louisa May had to be coerced into writing Little Women. She was happily writing lucrative literature and pulp fiction. Thomas Niles, the editor at Roberts Brothers Publishing, approached her to write a book for girls. She wasn't interested, later calling such books "moral pap for the young."
The book is actually in two parts, Little Women is the first part and was written between May and July 1868. There are conflicting reports on why it was so rapid. Some say it consumed her and she sometimes forgot to eat and sleep while writing. Another says she disliked it that much and wanted it to be done.
As mentioned above, Little Women is actually two books. The second part, Good Wives, was first published a year later. Over the years they have been published both together and separately. In the US, the books are more likely to be combined. Readers in the UK and Canada are more likely to see the book ending with John Brooke proposing to Meg.
After begrudgingly agreeing to write the novel, Louisa May didn't know what to write, so she wrote about her sisters and herself. Meg is actually Anna, Beth is Lizzie (who was much older when she died), and Amy is based on May. Louisa May based Jo on herself.
Taken from Louisa May's journal: "Girls write to ask who the little women marry, as if that was the only aim and end of a woman's life. I won't marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone." As a compromise, she married Jo to the unromantic Professor Bhaer.
Little Women has been adapted into a movie seven times, television twice (including this new one), multiple Broadway plays, a musical, and a ballet. Unusually, the novel has been adapted into an opera and as a Japanese-style anime. You can watch two episodes of the anime online.
It's an impressive testament that the novel has never been out of print. It's reported that approximately 1,000 copies are sold every month. That means around 1.78 million copies have been sold over 149 years.
Little Women has been translated into more than 50 languages. Despite our best efforts, we can't find a list, but we know there have been several Japanese translations.
Louisa May wrote two sequels to Little Women (Good Wives counts as part two, not a sequel). Little Men was published in 1871 and Jo's Boys in 1886. Both novels featured the March sisters.
Both Louisa May and her publisher thought the first chapters were dull, but her publisher's niece thought they were splendid, as did other girls who read early copies, so they published the novel.
Despite the characters traveling around the United States and Mr. March being a chaplain in the American Civil War, many readers incorrectly assume the story to be English. Many viewers of the new television adaptation were upset with the actors using American accents, despite them being accurate for the story.