Monday, November 29, 2010

A Magnificent Trio

I wonder how many girls there are these days whose life-long reading careers start with Louisa May Alcott's Little Women? This marvelous book begins with these words:

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents," grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.
"It's so dreadful to be poor!" sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.
"I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all," added little Amy, with an injured sniff.
"We've got Father and Mother, and each other," said Beth contentedly from her corner.

With those four lines of dialogue, the reader is introduced to the four little women whose lives and personalities dominate the story. The reader is also introduced to each of their personalities in brief.
Well, the purpose of this post is not to go on about Little Women. It is to celebrate the lives of three marvelous authors, all of whom have one thing in common. They were born on this day.

Of course, since you are an astute reader, you will have gleaned that one of those three must be Louisa May Alcott. Though most of us would associate Alcott with New England, she was in fact born just outside of Philadelphia, PA. When she was two, the family moved to Massachusetts, where her father was involved in an experimental school as well as an early commune. Among the people with whom she interacted as a child were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Her most famous work parallels greatly the life her own family was living. She had three sisters, and patterned her four little women on herself and her sisters. The Alcotts were poor, as were the Marchs. Her one sister died young, just as in the novel.

The second author of the magnificent trio born on this day is another author born in one country and mostly associated with another: C. S. Lewis. He was born in Belfast, Ireland. When he was a teen, he was sent to boarding school in England, a searing negative experience.

He wrote of that first encounter with England,
No Englishman will be able to understand my first impressions of England...The strange English accents with which I was surrounded seemed like the voices of demons. But what was worst was the English landscape ... I have made up the quarrel since; but at that moment I conceived a hatred for England which took many years to heal.

Of course, most readers would now associate Lewis with his long career both as a student and then as a professor at Oxford. There, he was part of a circle of friends that included J.R.R. Tolkein. While Lewis was a prolific writer, he is most associated today with his Narnia series, the first book of which is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

The last of the magnificent trio is Madeleine L'Engle. She has something in common with each of the writers above--obviously, like Louisa May Alcott, she is a woman author whose works are popular among young readers; like C. S. Lewis she is sometimes referred to as a Christian author. Her own growing awareness of religion was a sense that "all will be redeemed in God's fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ."

I first encountered her works when our son was a young reader and enthusiastically read A Wrinkle in Time, and then continued on to other books in that series.

I realize that with 365 days in any year (excepting leap year), there are always serendipitous syzygies of authors. Today's alignment seemed particularly note-worthy. Hence, my magnificent trio celebration.


Beverly said...

A wonderful lesson for today.

NCmountainwoman said...

What a trio indeed! I devoured Alcott's books when I was a little girl. When I purchased my Kindle I downloaded a couple of her books for free and use them for my getting-relaxed-for-bed reading.

Anonymous said...

I loved The Alcott books, too. A couple more that I read more than once were The Secret Garden and Heidi. Do kids ever read Heidi any more?

And Lois Lenski's books... any child who read those books surely learned empathy and understanding.

Anonymous said...

Love all three of those authors. Some of the best. I keep trying to get my daughter to read Little Women. I've probably read it several hundred times (hyperbole much?).

Climenheise said...

You know my long acquaintance with and appreciation for Lewis. Died on the same day as JFK. I have returned to his imagniative worlds often, as I do with a handful of other authors.

Africakid said...

How amazing that all three have the same birthday! I need to revisit L'Engle's books--it's been awhile.

KGMom said...

Beverly--I hope you got to read it all; your comment came in while I was mid-posting. Actually editing--so you might have missed some.

Carolyn--I am not surprised that you devoured Alcott. That's where many avid readers began.

Marylee--I don't know if kids read Heidi. Probably would be too saccharine for today's audience.

Liza--what does your daughter like to read?

Daryl--I know you do. I was thinking of you as I wrote.

Laurie--nice to hear from you again. I need to pop over to your blog more faithfully.