Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriet Reisen

genre: non-fiction, biography

Talk about someone who lived an amazing life. I'm not usually a biography reader, but something about Louisa and the world she grew up in intrigued me - and rightly so. This very readable book tells Louisa's story from beginning to end, weaving in her writings as well as pertinent historical information that fleshes out the scene of her days.

Growing up with Emerson and Thoreau as surrogate uncles, the Concord and Boston of Louisa's day is the stuff of legend. What I really enjoyed about this book was learning about how her own life experiences made their way into her writing. Her deprived "Utopian" childhood, the Civil War, her slow road to fame - she wrote about it all in both personal journals and in hundreds of sketches, poems and stories.

I also came to appreciate how much family troubles, ill health and other people's choices influenced her decisions - I liked when the author made those connections for me. Clearly, her vigor and "can-do" attitude made her such an asset to those who depended on her and the author does well, I think, at combining Louisa's journals with other sources to help us piece together her whole story - since all was not always happiness and "can-do."

While I did really enjoy it, it was certainly a slower read than usual. The author is thorough and I was always happy to pick it up, but I wouldn't call it a huge page turner. As a portrait of an exceptionally prolific and creative writer, as well as a snapshot of an American Life, I came away from this book with a much greater appreciation for the struggles of early American women and a sense of pleasure at knowing this incredible woman a little better.

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bermudaonion said...

I've been interested in knowing more about LMA ever since I read The Lost Summer of LMA. This sounds like a great book!

Anonymous said...

I bought this book awhile ago but haven't gotten to it yet. I am glad to hear you liked it, even if it's a bit slow. I am not a huge biography reader either but Alcott has always interested me.

Julie @ Read Handed said...

This book sounds great. I'm always interested in reading biographies of the writers I enjoy. Thanks for sharing this.

Melissa Mc (Gerbera Daisy Diaries) said...

When the Borders in my folks' neighborhood was going out of business, this was one of the books I had in my pile to purchase...but for some reason put it back. Oh well.

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