Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Book Review - Louisa May Alcott

Every young girl from the late 19th century through to the present time has read at least one of Louisa May Alcott's books.  My book club just finished a biography about her by Harriet Reisen called Little Women: The Woman Behind Little Women.  I don't remember being an avid fan of Alcott when I was young, but I know a lot of women were.  I must say, I do have a better appreciation of Louisa after reading this book.  

Even if you aren't a big fan, I think you'll enjoy this biography like I did.  First of all, I hadn't realized that Louisa wrote Little Women in the 1870s; I thought she just used the Civil War as a backdrop for her story.  She actually led a very hard and depressing life.  She supported both parents and all her sisters, even before her award winning book was written.  Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a member of the transcendentalist movement and he was always starting schools and going on lecture tours... for free.  

portrait by George Healy.
The characters in Louisa May Alcott's books were from her everyday life.  But she added more love and happiness to her stories than what she actually experienced.  Loiusa was a prolific writer.  She wrote about a dozen children's books and her short stories are scattered throughout the literary magazines of the time, such as the Atlantic.  She also wrote books for adults - there were over 30 thrillers under the pseudonym of A.M. Barnard.  This was all a bit scandalous for her time!
"One of them, a novella called "A Long Fatal Love Chase," made the NYTimes best seller's list for four weeks in the mid 1990s, over a century after the author's death."
Reisen did a good job in researching the Alcotts and the literary scene of the day.  You'll find that the book reads very quickly.  There are many footnotes which give the reader additional history of the family and their lives in Massachusetts.  The Alcotts had close ties to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, who helped support their household throughout Louisa's life.   At the end of the book, there is an in-depth index and Notes section.  I was pleased to add this volume to my bookcase of books by and about women.


Splendid Little Stars said...

sounds very interesting! I have loved her "Little Women" books and it would be great to know more about her.
My book club just met last night and we chose our books for 2012. I will pass this blog post on to them!
I appreciate that you have a book list on your blog and will peruse that more carefully soon.

Jenny said...

wow. now I'm inspired to read her other works, especially her thrillers. I've only ever read Little Women.

Rose said...

Sounds like an interesting book! Thanks for the review.

Sher said...

Great review. I always loved Little Women. It's a great sit in your jammies with a cup of tea movie.

Kathleen said...

Sounds like a good read - thanks for the review. I have always been fond of the her books but I didn't know that she wrote mysteries as well!

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