My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Reimagining the lives of deceased women authors is literary vogue: Jane Austen and The Brontë sisters have all been recreated in memoir-like fashion, as have the characters from their many novels.
Kelly O’Connor McNees has now added The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott to the list of “biographical” fiction – and I’m so glad she did.
Louisa is the fiercely independent daughter of Bronson and Abigail Alcott – and along with her three sisters, has settled in Walpole, Massachusetts, much against Louisa’s desires. At 22, she is eager to become a writer and to set off on her own in Boston to pursue her dreams. However, because of her father’s ideals and lofty philosophical beliefs (which results in no job and no income) she must stay at home and help her family subsist on virtually nothing.
In spite of the meagerness of their lives, Louisa enjoys the friendships of a group of young Walpolians – they entertain themselves with picnics at the swimming hole and producing theatre for the community. One such friend is Joseph Singer, a dashing young store clerk who shares Louisa’s love of poetry and literature. It is clear that Joseph is smitten with Louisa’s verve and intellect, but Louisa is determined that she is above and beyond having a relationship with this suitor. What proceeds, is a wonderful, if not bittersweet love story.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The character of LMA is exactly how I had her imagined – extremely independent and willing to sacrifice most everything for the sake of her writing (including her romantic/personal happiness). From what little I know of LMA, I thought the author did a skillful job of interweaving fact and fiction – including the use of the known friends of the Alcotts – Emerson and Thoreau. She vividly recreates 19th century rural life, which although harsh, seems very bucolic. She also had a spare, but beautiful prose that reflected the style of LMA.
I’m eager to indulge on the writings of LMA after reading this book.
And if you are looking for a “summer read” then The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott should be on your list!
If you are interested in a "reading challenge" Margot at Joyfully Retired is hosting All Things Alcott Challenge. There is still time to participate.
Also, not too long ago, PBS produced a fabulous docu-drama on Louisa May Alcott. Here is a snippet, but I highly recommend viewing the entire episode!
Book source: Personal copy
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