Little Women (1868)Read about another entry on the list.
Louisa May Alcott’s novel, an advocation of virtue over wealth, has a cockle-warming Christmas message. The girls wake up early, but instead of stuffed stockings, find different-coloured books under their pillows. Their mother then tells them about a poor woman with six hungry children and no fire – will they sacrifice their breakfasts? Of course they will, and they pack up their muffins and cream. After putting on a play, the girls are surprised to find a feast has been laid on, courtesy of old Mr Laurence. There is pink and white ice cream, cake, fruit and “distracting French bonbons”.
Little Women also appears on the Observer's list of the ten best fictional mothers, Eleanor Birne's top ten list of books on motherhood, Erin Blakemore's list of five gutsy heroines to channel on an off day, Kate Saunders' critic's chart of mothers and daughters in literature, and Zoë Heller's list of five memorable portraits of sisters. It is a book that disappointed Geraldine Brooks on re-reading.