More books from my childhood

So Mary Francis Shura’s The Josie Gambit is where I learned pretty much everything I knew about chess.  Twelve-year-old chess geek Greg is spending six months with his grandmother, and he reunites with his old friend and chess partner Josie.  Josie has an absolutely hateful friend Tory, whose utter nastiness everyone is at a loss to explain.  And the book is, essentially, all about why Tory is such a nasty girl.

When I was small, I liked this book because everyone ate a lot of food, and I learned interesting things about chess, and there was a very unpleasant Lhaso Apso, which I thought was funny.  As an adult I am still pleased with it, though for different reasons.  I like it because chess is completely twined around the story.  A large portion of the plot centers around chess – Greg learned chess in the first place from Josie’s grandmother, and Greg and Josie and Tory are all part of the school chess team – and the internal structure of the plot is very chessy.  It’s much with the opening moves and the counters, and the – I don’t know, other chess terms.  (I really know very little about chess.)

And today I reread Little Women. I love Little Women.  There are so many bits of Little Women that I love – the whole chapter about the Pickwick Papers and the Post Office sounds so friendly and cozy, and I love it when Jo makes friends with Laurie, and Beth makes friends with Mr. Laurence. And it’s amazing how I can find Beth absolutely nauseating and still cry like a baby when she dies.  I cry when she and Jo even talk about her dying.  I love this book.  I love Louisa May Alcott, even when she’s being horribly sanctimonious.

Louisa May Alcott does loads better at writing about children than adults – Rose in Bloom is less good than Eight Cousins, and same goes for the other two books about the March girls.  People are more fun when they aren’t being virtuous all the time.  If there were a book just about Marmee and Mr. Alcott, I would tear my face off.  I hate it when Marmee tells nauseating stories to her daughters (blech!).  But I digress.  Louisa May Alcott is brilliant with her characters really, and probably more than ordinarily in Little Women, or maybe I just think that because I read it when I was so little.  I love that you can see them growing up, and they grow up totally themselves – Amy is still Amy when she grows up, only nicer and more mature!  Brilliant!  And Laurie and Jo are great as best friends, but I know they wouldn’t really suit as a married couple.  (Though I slightly still want them to get married because I like Laurie and I identify with Jo.)

11 thoughts on “More books from my childhood

  1. You know, I really enjoy RiB, possibly because of all the awful in it. Uncle Alec is a bit much at times in 8CotAH, but I always enjoy watching Rose change.

    re: Jo and Laurie, I steadfastly refuse to see that. Sometime I will tell you of the trauma that was my first LW reading.

    • I like Rose in Bloom! Totally definitely do, and I’m pleased about how things ended, except I don’t think poor Charlie deserved to die. I think what I like so much about Eight Cousins is that whole thing of moving from disorder (pathetic invalid Rose) to order (healthy good-humored Rose). I find that so relaxing.

      Dude, what? Sometime? Tell me now! What happened? Were you involved in some sort of hostage situation while you were reading it? Did someone lie to you and tell you that Beth was going to be just fine, and then you were caught off guard?

      • I can’t say! I have to save it for my write up, so I must wait till I re-read LW, which I was thinking about doing as soon as the weather turns autumnal.

        And I can follow it up with An Old-Fashioned Girl.

  2. Totally forgot to mention that I also read The Josie Gambit, albeit only once, and enjoyed the story and chess references. I thought of it for the first time in years the other night, however, when I discovered that Shura also wrote Night Cry a book I owned and re-read several times. A very odd book that left quite an impression on me.

  3. Awww I love Little Women – totally grew up with it too, and you picked the same scene I love (the Pickwick Papers chapter)! And about food, I definitely have certain books from when I was younger, where all I can remember are the foods described in it (like in Trapped in Time by Ruth Chew, where the kids dig a sandpit and camp out on the beach, eating oysters and clams and fish, I’ve always wanted to do that!).

    It’s so great to revisit really really old favorites and think about why you liked them as a child. I’m smiling just thinking about some of them right now =)

    • J.K. Rowling said the same thing about The Little White Horse – that she could remember all the food they ate. I was a very food-focused child. All my early memories center around food, it’s a big family joke.

  4. Funny, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book and mostly remembered the food later. Except for maybe The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe- I had no idea what turkish delight was, and it puzzled me for a long time (figured it was some kind of candy, but better than chocolate??)

    I was actually disappointed when I first read Little Women. I loved the movie adaption (the one with Winona Ryder and it spoiled my enjoyment of the book. My sister loves it, though.

    • See, and I do not care for the movie adaptation. I love Laurie, and I hate Christian Bale, so every time he was on screen I got cranky. But I thought Kirsten Dunst was a perfect little Amy!

  5. I was furious when I first read this and found out that Jo did not marry Laurie and then to marry Prof Bhaer. I mean, well……

    I have lost count of the number of times I have read htis book and now you have made me want to read it again, though I agree as they grow up the March girls can get a bit sanctimonious. How about Little Men? All about Jo’s school and I love that one too.

    I visited Orchard House in Concord a few years ago when visiting the US and simply fell in love with the place. Hope to be visiting in the vicninty again next year and have every intention of another visit

    • Prof Bhaer’s obnoxious, right? Am I right? I hate it when he calls himself “Monsieur de Trop” – blech. Louisa May Alcott said that she didn’t care what everyone said, she “wouldn’t marry Jo to Laurie to please anyone”, so she made up a funny husband for Jo. It’s funny (but frustrating!) how I can completely sympathize with that in theory and still hate it every single time in execution.

      Oh, I’d love to go to Concord and visit their house. I read a book when I was small, called The Time Garden, and the children in that go visit Orchard House and they wind up inside of Little Women. THERE IS A DRAGON. IT IS GREAT.

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