Little Women 2017 – Cast


I do not know what possessed the BBC to send a cast and crew to Ireland to film a miniseries of classic American Civil War-era novel Little Women, but that’s precisely what they did in 2017. The series aired in some countries around Boxing Day last year, and now it’s America’s turn.

I first watched it in January, and – as a huge fan of the 1994 movie – have thoughts about it.

Because these thoughts turned into something of an essay, I’ll be discussing the casting on one day, and the production on another.

I’ll not be talking about the earlier adaptations.

These posts will also be on my history blog. There will be spoilers.

In case you’re not familiar with the story:

Little Women is a novel by American author Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888), which was originally published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869. Alcott wrote the books over several months at the request of her publisher. Following the lives of the four March sisters—Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy—the novel details their passage from childhood to womanhood and is loosely based on the author and her three sisters.

Little Women was an immediate commercial and critical success with readers demanding to know more about the characters. Alcott quickly completed a second volume (entitled Good Wives in the United Kingdom, although this name originated from the publisher and not from Alcott). It was also successful. The two volumes were issued in 1880 as a single novel entitled Little Women.”


Of course, the most important casting choices for Little Women will be the sisters. Other major roles are Marmee, the girls’ mother, Laurie, the young man who moves in next door, and the elderly Aunt March. There are other roles, but those are the three people tend to care about.

Firstly: I have NO idea why people have complained about the actresses’ accents. Three of the four actresses ARE American, including Jo, so I think people are simply looking for faults where they don’t exist.

Jo is the star of the book, and the series, and here she is played by Maya Thurman-Hawke. She is Uma Thurman’s (and Ethan Hawke’s) daughter, whom she resembles – but to me she is a lankier, younger version of Lynette Wills.


This is a very different Jo to Winona Ryder’s 1994 Oscar-nominated version. She is awkward, scruffy, and passionate. It is a great performance and even though she’s a newcomer you can see how much work she put into the role, but I’m still a Winona fan!

The problem with her casting is that she looks like the youngest of the March sisters, when two of the girls are supposed to be significantly younger than her. (Also, I nearly broke through the screen to try to do something about her unbrushed, unstyled hippie hair!)

Little Women

This leads me to Amy – the baby of the family. She is played by a twenty-year-old Kathryn Newton here, though she is meant to not have even reached her teens at the start. She fares much better as the grown version of the character.

People love to hate Amy for three reasons:

  1. She is the youngest, and therefore does some immature things at the start that people refuse to forgive her for as she matures.
  2. She is supposed to be the pretty blue-eyed blonde of the family (and people love to hate pretty blondes!) – which leads to:
  3. She marries Laurie, and everyone wanted Jo to marry him, so they won’t forgive her for it.

I have always found the hatred directed at Amy abhorrent and enormously misogynistic. Amy is my favourite March sister because she grows and changes the most, and has a wealth of interests and ambitions.

Amy March Little Women 1994 Kirsten Dunst Samantha Mathis

In the 1994 version she was played by two actresses: Kirsten Dunst as the younger version, and Samantha Mathis as the grown version. While I always found it odd how different the two were from each other, they were both so brilliant in the role I forgave it.

The problem with Newton in the role in this new adaptation? There are a few.

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Sonya Heaney Screencap Skating Scene

Firstly: she is older than the actress playing Jo, and it’s obvious. She is a poised young woman to a Jo who is still mastering her teen awkwardness, and no amount of Amy skipping around the house and sitting on the floor with her legs splayed makes her seem any younger.

Secondly: this obvious maturity makes her childhood mistakes seem calculated and evil, and the writer and director lingered on them so long it painted a completely wrong picture of the character.

Thirdly: no time actually seems to pass. In 1994, we saw Mathis’ Amy had grown because she was in 1870s gowns and had 1870s hairstyles:

Samantha Mathis as Amy March in Little Women (1994)

Little Women film- Samantha Mathis as Amy March)

2017’s Amy is still in the voluminous Civil War-era skirts, with ear-hugging 1860s hair as an adult – the same fashions that were around when she was a child:

Little Women 2017 Kathryn Newton Amy March Laurie Sonya Heaney Episode 3 screencap Europe

It results in an Amy who looks too old to be a child, and too young to be an adult.

Superficially: nobody in a period drama should have dark eyebrows and bleached blonde hair.

Now… there are two more March sisters, but I need to mention Laurie.

Jonah Hauer-King actually physically resembles the book character better than 1994’s Christian Bale, but: 1994’s Laurie was Christian Bale!


He was simply brilliant in the movie, unsurpassable.

2017 Laurie and Amy are below. I think they suit much better than Laurie and Jo.


On the other hand, Hauer-King does an excellent job. He’s likeable, loveable, and IS a good match for Amy when he finally realises Jo is his best friend, not the love of his life.

The other two March sisters are the two people tend to overlook more.

In this version, tragic Beth has been given a whole new level of “homebody”. She has a full-on anxiety disorder in this incarnation, which is not something I have ever seen before, and I’m not sure was necessary.

Little Women 2017 Episode 1 Beth March Sonya Heaney Annes Elwy Screencap Winter

Welsh actress Annes Elwy (as in, the only sister not played by an American) does a great job with what material she has, but she is written to fade into the background at so many points. I still find her highly likeable, however.

Beth’s death in the movie was a hugely emotional scene with only Jo present; in this miniseries everyone’s crowded around and I really don’t think it had much of an impact, despite Emily Watson’s good acting…

The eldest March sister, the sensible, motherly one, was played well by Willa Fitzgerald, even if she does come across as a bit of a bore! I actually think that overall this was the March sister who was the best cast. She is everything Meg should be, but the actress simply does not have enough to work with to make her as interesting as Jo or Amy.

Emily Watson’s Marmee is a much more harried, rough-around-the-edges mother than Susan Sarandon’s version in 1994. I think it suited this scruffier production of the book, and she is always a great actress, but I still prefer a warmer interpretation.

Watson also gets extra points, because Susan Sarandon – the real woman – has emerged as highly unlikeable since the 2016 US election.

Angela Lansbury (of recent “women need to take some blame for getting raped” infamy) plays Aunt March, the elderly aunt who takes Amy to Europe. She is a different aunt to the 1994 version, but she is really good in the role.

This is VERY different casting to the ’94 movie, but that is a good thing. I do prefer the movie cast overall, but there are some interesting changes in the 2017 version.


Release Day for How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation

Tomorrow is the release day for How I Resist: Activism and Hope for the Next Generation. The world has been changed enormously since the election of Donald Trump, and this book – marketed as young adult nonfiction – features multiple essays from authors talking about doing their best to change the world in a time fascism and extremism are taking over.

How I Resist Activism and Hope for the Next Generation

An all-star collection of essays about activism and hope, edited by bestselling YA authors Tim Federle and Maureen Johnson.

Now, more than ever, young people are motivated to make a difference in a world they’re bound to inherit. They’re ready to stand up and be heard – but with much to shout about, where they do they begin? What can I do? How can I help?

How I Resist is the response, and a way to start the conversation. To show readers that they are not helpless, and that anyone can be the change. A collection of essays, songs, illustrations, and interviews about activism and hope, How I Resist features an all-star group of contributors, including, John Paul Brammer, Libba Bray, Lauren Duca, Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and his husband Justin Mikita, Alex Gino, Hebh Jamal, Malinda Lo, Dylan Marron, Hamilton star Javier Muñoz, Rosie O’Donnell, Junauda Petrus, Jodi Picoult, Jason Reynolds, Karuna Riazi, Maya Rupert, Dana Schwartz, Dan Sinker, Ali Stroker, Jonny Sun (aka @jonnysun), Sabaa Tahir, Daniel Watts, Jennifer Weiner, Jacqueline Woodson, and more, all edited and compiled by New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson and Lambda-winning novelist Tim Federle.

In How I Resist, readers will find hope and support through voices that are at turns personal, funny, irreverent, and instructive. Not just for a young adult audience, this incredibly impactful collection will appeal to readers of all ages who are feeling adrift and looking for guidance.

How I Resist is the kind of book people will be discussing for years to come and a staple on bookshelves for generations.

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

Nothing has been the same since Caleb Becker left a party drunk, got behind the wheel, and hit Maggie Armstrong. Even after months of painful physical therapy, Maggie walks with a limp. Her social life is nil and a scholarship to study abroad—her chance to escape everyone and their pitying stares—has been canceled.

After a year in juvenile jail, Caleb’s free . . . if freedom means endless nagging from a transition coach and the prying eyes of the entire town. Coming home should feel good, but his family and ex-girlfriend seem like strangers.

Caleb and Maggie are outsiders, pigeon-holed as “criminal” and “freak.” Then the truth emerges about what really happened the night of the accident and, once again, everything changes. It’s a bleak and tortuous journey for Caleb and Maggie, yet they end up finding comfort and strength from a surprising source: each other.

Leaving Paradise (Leaving Paradise #1) by Simone Elkeles

I first read this book years ago, and remember really liking it. It is probably a more mature book than Elkeles hugely popular Perfect Chemistry, with more complicated characters. I love that the characters don’t always make the best decisions, as they’re still teenagers, and still distrustful of many adults.

However, when I first read it I had all the twists and turns ruined by an inconsiderate Goodreads reviewer who wrote out the book’s ENTIRE plot without spoiler tags. And this is one book where you do not want everything spoilt in advance!

Coming back to Leaving Paradise after a long time, I could appreciate the plot more, and I found I liked it as much as I did in the past.

Told from both Caleb and Maggie’s point of view, the book begins as both characters return to school after a year away – Caleb because he was in prison, and Maggie because of her serious injuries after being hit by the car Caleb went to prison for driving.

Of course, it is impossible to stay away from each other in a small town, and soon the two of them – both wanting to get away from all the people who don’t understand how they’ve changed – end up spending time together.

This is the ultimate setup for teen angst, but I didn’t find it overdone.

I do find the high school (and also university/college) culture depicted in many young adult and new adult books odd. Why are people in their late teens (and even early twenties) still doing the “popular kid”, “bully”, and “clique” things? Shouldn’t they have grown out of that by now?

The conclusion of Leaving Paradise does wrap many things up, but it is also not your standard young adult romance ending. There is a second book about these characters, also good but a little different, if you want to see what becomes of Caleb and Maggie.

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

Caleb Becker left Paradise eight months ago, taking with him the secret he promised to take to his grave. If the truth got out, it would ruin everything.

Maggie Armstrong tried to be strong after Caleb broke her heart and disappeared. Somehow, she managed to move on. She’s determined to make a new life for herself.

But then Caleb and Maggie are forced together on a summer trip. They try ignoring their passion for each other, but buried feelings resurface. Caleb must face the truth about the night of Maggie’s accident, or the secret that destroyed their relationship will forever stand between them.

Return to Paradise (Leaving Paradise #2) by Simone Elkeles

While I think you could read this book on its own, I don’t think there’s any point in doing so without reading Leaving Paradise first. A follow-up to the open-ended drama of the excellent first book, this was a reread for me, and enough time had passed since my first time reading it that a lot of it felt brand new again.

WARNING: I am going to spoil the first book here, so if you’re interested in the series, you’d better not read the rest! Otherwise go back to my review of book one.

In the first book we see Caleb and Maggie return to school after a year away. Maggie has been in the hospital and in recovery after a serious accident where she was hit by a drunken driver. She is permanently injured by the crash. Caleb has been in prison for being that driver.

Only, it wasn’t Caleb who was driving the car – something we find out towards the end of the book. He took the blame to protect his twin sister (and Maggie’s former best friend) who was behind the wheel that night.

After being rejected by everyone, Caleb skipped town, and we pick up with him eight months later, arrested again for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In order to stay out of prison – and this time it would be full-on adult prison, not juvenile detention – the man working on his case offers him the chance to travel with a group of young people on a tour to talk to kids about the consequences of dangerous driving.

Maggie also happens to be part of this group, and this is where the real drama starts.

Some of the things that were left open-ended in book one are resolved here. The truth about Caleb finally comes out, just as it should. Maggie is NOT happy that Caleb took off on her not long after they became a couple, and it takes time for them to work through their issues.

Author Simone Elkeles knows how to write teen drama. She’s fantastic at it. As an adult reading her work it has an addictive quality, and I can only imagine how much teenaged me would have enjoyed these books.

While it is not as solid a read as book one, Return to Paradise is satisfying in a different way: we finally get justice for characters affected by things beyond their control.

Read these two as a pair.

The Week: 19th – 25th March


Moody sky at Lake Burley Griffin in Canberra on Saturday afternoon.

First autumn leaves in Canberra.

Our crazy resident brushtail possum and her baby curled up in the tree outside my room on Tuesday afternoon.

kaetlyn-osmond Canada_s Kaetlyn Osmond. 2018 World Figure Skating Champion.


Huge congratulations to Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond, who just became the 2018 World Figure Skating Champion. I am SO disappointed this wasn’t the result at the Olympics a few weeks ago. Osmond is a complete skater, not a jumping machine with zero artistic merit.

This week the world’s last male white rhinoceros died. The species is about to become extinct. And the United States is run by a family who goes to Africa to trophy-hunt endangered animals…

One week until Easter, and March is basically over. What happened?! I am going away over the long weekend.

Coming Up for Mary Balogh

Someone to Trust (Westcott Book #5) by Mary Balogh

My review of First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet #1) by Mary Balogh

First Comes Marriage (Huxtable Quintet #1) by Mary Balogh

My review of Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

My review of Running Blind (Men of Steele #4) by Gwen Hernandez

Running Blind (Men of Steele #4) by Gwen Hernandez

Make a date with Harlequin: Prince

Harlequin Publishing Logo

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

This young adult romance involves an aspiring football player and an aspiring ballet dancer. They’re thrown together when our hero – recovering from an injury – is encouraged to take up ballet to help with his football – his flexibility in particular.

Unlike most young adult books I’ve read recently, this one was written in the third person.

I like books where the characters have particular ambitions and talents they’re working with. I didn’t have a normal childhood or adolescence, with everyone in my family involved either in the theatre or elite sport, and I’m always going to pick up a book with these themes.

It seems the author knows a thing or two about American football, but not enough about ballet to convince me. As you would expect, I know NOTHING about American football (other than that they wear scaffolding when they play!), but it seems she did a good job with that aspect of the book.

The heroine starts off highly unlikeable, blackmailing the hero into dancing with her by filming him in the ballet studio and threatening to show it at school. Nobody who does ballet would ever do anything like this. I knew guys who kept their ballet lives a secret, and not even the meanest person at the studio would have been awful enough to do what she did.

Thankfully, the nastiness is resolved fairly fast, because I wouldn’t have been able to keep reading otherwise.

Now, I’m always going to be nitpicky with the ballet, and it’s no different here. I’ll just mention three things, though:

#1 It’s a ballet barre, not a “bar”, as it is referred to a number of times. You hold it; you don’t drink at it!

#2 I was horrified by the personal “ballet” lessons the hero received. Ballet is dance, not “stretching”. The guy walked into the studio cold, and with zero warmup was stretching beyond his (very limited) capabilities. A guy who can’t bend to touch his knees has no business throwing a leg up on a barre over a metre high.

This wasn’t ballet; it was muscle-tearing!

#3 No, people don’t wear princess costumes to ballet class. This is what ballet students look like when they’re in the studio:

Kiyanochka_02 Ballet Class Ballet Students


Entangled’s Crush line is category romance for teens, so this is a shortish read, where the action moves along at a pretty fast pace. Offsetting Penalties is a decent little read to pass an afternoon – just don’t nitpick like me!


Review copy provided by NetGalley.


Reread: My Life Next Door

I’ve been rereading a few books over the hot summer here in Australia, including some Young Adult books – I haven’t read anything in the genre for a while, so it’s been interesting!

One of the books I’ve reread is My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, a book I reviewed in 2013. I won’t review it again, but will say it’s such a good book with great characters.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

“One thing my mother never knew, and would disapprove of most of all, was that I watched the Garretts.  All the time.”

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, numerous, messy, affectionate. And every day from her balcony perch, seventeen-year-old Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them…until one summer evening Jase Garrett climbs her trellis and changes everything. As the two fall fiercely in love and stumble through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first romance, Jase’s family makes Samantha one of their own—even as she keeps him a secret from her disapproving mother and critical best friend. Then the unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

A debut novel about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.