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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Little Women in India by Jane Nardin

Imagine being an English girl in India in the middle of the nineteenth century.  There is rebellion everywhere, and even though you are somewhat sympathetic with the Indians, you are also terrified.

This is the scenario of Jane Nardin's version of Little Women.  Exciting and exotic, this very different version features four girls, who all resemble Alcott's heroines, but they're cleverly re-imagined for today's readers.  They're more liberated - they hate being called 'Little Women' by their father - and they're much less sympathetic with each other, although they all love each other dearly.  For example, Elizabeth (Amy) thinks that Fanny (Beth) is soppy and too good to be true.  The girls are all likeable and share many of the characteristics of their classic counterparts, but they're also much more intrepid. 

Evocative and somewhat political, this novel contrasts the British way of life in India with the treatment of the Indians.  It is an indictment of the lack of understanding of Indian religion and culture by the British, and it also tells the sad story of a mixed-race woman deserted by her husband.  The girls in the novel certainly learn a lot about this, while coping with several dangers and emotions.

I did find this to be more like an adventure story than a version of Little Women, so I was a bit disappointed, although I enjoyed Little Women in India immensely.  I missed the romance of Little Women.

The only other flaw was that these little women sometimes used extremely modern expressions, such as 'I get it'.

My husband thought that I was reading a non-fiction book about tiny women in India!  He's extremely clever, but not literary.

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