This instalment of the Dalek Game is for Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, a book containing one of those scenes which sear themselves into my memory – the death of the bird when the girls are allowed to do as they please on their holidays and forget to take care of it. It was scarring and awful scene, because it was such an obvious, inevitable, unexpected, Lord of the Flies thing to happen. To many readers the book seems to be a hoops-and-bonnets fantasy. But while it taught me to do my chores (as What Katy Did taught me to give explanations for rules), and while I like Little Women much more than Lord of the Flies, and can forgive it a great deal for the collapsing bed and “Rodrigo! Save me!”, I cannot quite consider the novel without that memory, or consider the March girls aside from that momentous, careless cruelty.
An element of gritty reality underlies the charm (the teasing, the burned hair, the lost love). It is absent from (best-beloved) near-contemporary What Katy Did (1872 to Little Women’s 1868-9), for all its squabbles and games, and from the Little House Books (published in the 1930s recollecting the 1870s) where consequences come from outside forces and the best intentions of human effort seem to dissipate in locusts, blizzards, sickness and fire. Absent too from Anne of Green Gables’ cringing embarrassments (1908), and from Seven Little Australians (1894) which contains larger tragedies but which (in spite of laundering) most helpless animals survive.
This, too, is the reason that I did not care for the latest Pride and Prejudice movie as Pride and Prejudice. P&P is about veneers, manners, appearances and trying to live and love through and in spite of them (oh, that one beautiful sentence about Lizzie and her aunt not talking as they leave Pemberley). The movie showed mud and pigs and sweat and pores, and the fantasy of muslin and carriages and plumes suspended above all that. And I still think, as I said when the first promotional pictures came out, that for Pride and Prejudice it is a very good Little Women! (And for the record: best Lizzie = Jennifer Ehle (that smile!), best Darcy = Laurence Olivier (spoiled boy), best Mrs Bennett = Alex Kingston (darling), best Mr Collins = Nitin Ganatra (no life without wife)).
In other news: Giveaway! Rowena Cory Daniells interviewed me on art and writing, and there is a chance to get a Dalek drawing of your very own.
I cannot recall if I’ve ever read Little Women. Which may not be all that odd for a male to say but I read a wide variety of books when I was a kid (still do now, come to that) and It wouldn’t surprise me if I had and just don’t recall. I have seen the most recent film version every Christmas for years now and so that is what sticks most in my head. Love that film, it has become one of our Christmas traditions.
I actually am very fond of the latest Pride and Prejudice, for all the things that are wildly different in presentation from the also excellent BBC version. For me the “mood” of the Kiera Knightley version is more engaging to me than the other versions I’ve seen. I like seeing ever so slight glimmers of romance between Mr. and Mrs. Bennett. I like the beauty of a more dirty English countryside juxtaposed against the clean, crisp glamour of Pemberly. And although I think Jennifer Ehle is the most radiant of Elizabeth Bennett’s, I like Knightley’s portrayal and love the brooding tortured portrayal of Mr. Darcy as played by Matthew Macfadyen.
And of course I don’t want to leave without saying how great the illustration is. Just watched the season opener for Dr. Who and of course Daleks are in the forefront of my mind right now. So thrilled that you continue to do these.
Hmm. Yes, I appreciate it as a thing in its own right, and I admired many things they did with the movie. But the mood isn’t the mood of the book, so it wars with that for me.
I can understand that. More often than not I find that it depends on whether or not I’ve read a book first. As much as I enjoy film I find that it actually works better for me if I see a film before a book as I end up enjoying each more as their own separate things than if I do it the other way round. And with books I really and truly love, 9 times out of 10 I’ll skip the movie altogether just because I know it won’t make me happy. I think of Time Traveler’s Wife as a more recent example of this.
This is a really cute drawing, with a lot of appeal. And I really enjoyed the interview. Having followed your work for seven years now IIRC (where does the time go?) I do believe you are getting better and better as an artist and as a storyteller. Not that you needed improvement, but anyone who can continue to do that has a true gift, I think.
Thank you so much Will! (and seven years?!)