The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O’Connor McNees
Putnam Adult/Amy Einhorn Books – April 1, 2010 – Hardcover – 352 pages
Source: Jen from Devourer of Books was sweet and had an ARC signed for me when Kelly visited Chicago, and I have to thank Marcia from The Printed Page for giving me “permission” to read what I wanted to read instead of what I felt I had an obligation to read.
In the summer of 1855 Louisa May Alcott is chomping at the bit to move to Boston and to begin earning her living by writing and selling her stories. She has already had some small success and can’t wait to follow it up with more. Before she can do that, she has to help her family move to their new home in Walpole, MA. Her plan is to spend a few weeks helping them get settled before she goes to Boston, but unforeseen events keep popping up to extend her stay, and a young man by the name of Joseph Singer threatens to be the biggest setback of all, as he goes from her number one annoyance to the man for whom she is tempted to give up everything.
O’Connor McNees’ The Lost Summer of Loisa May Alcott was a pleasure to read from the first moment I picked it up. I read this book quickly and was completely ensconced in the world of this beloved author, her eccentric family, and the struggle Louisa faces in choosing between the role of wife and mother or the life she wants to lead as a writer. All of Alcott’s relationships with her sisters, and her much tested mother, and her frequently infuriating father are explored. Louisa is especially close to her elder sister Anna, who also finds love over the summer. Bronson Alcott is larger than life, as he can’t help but be with his odd ideas that tax the family resources. I felt like he was put there to infuriate me with his hypocritical principles that kept him from doing an ounce of work, leaving his family to struggle on their own, constantly negotiating the brink of poverty.
I was intrigued by the philosophies guiding the lives of Louisa and her sister Anna. Anna is very much guided by the idea of doing good- being a dutiful child, making a good wife and mother, while Louisa has the newly emerging idea of her own happiness, and having that as the guiding principle and most important thing to attain. It is what she feels she has a right to, and she works hard to stay true to it, though it would be far easier for others if she took the path that was expected of her. Louisa’s view for the most part is the one that prevails now for in our society, while we look to take care of responsibilities, we also expect to find ways that we can be happy doing so.
I loved the seamless blending of fact and fiction in this novel and the captivating writing style. It was written in such a way that not only can I fully imagine this as Alcott’s life, the struggles that she might have experienced and the choices that she might have made, but I could also imagine her as the woman who would have written a book like Little Women and all the others she wrote, out of her experiences of the summer of 1855. So many will enjoy this fantastic novel. If you like historical fiction, works about women writers, loved reading Louisa May Alcott growing up, or fall into all three categories like me, then there is much here to be enjoyed.
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