Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

Kathleen has provided us with another wonderful review - this time for The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees:

In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Kelly O’Connor McNees provides fans of Louisa May Alcott a plausible, and eminently readable, glimpse into what her family life may have been like. One can see developments in her character, and family dynamics that fit with what we know of her life, her work and her recorded history. In this book we see the humanity of Louisa’s parents, unlike their portrayal in Little Women where they are nearly saints. McNees shows how the trials Mrs. Alcott endures as wife to an idealist, as well as the benefits she receives being married to a person she truly loves may have influenced Louisa in her life choices. We also see how the implacable strictures of her father’s idealism might have led to some of the personal demons that Louisa wrestled with in her life, as well as giving her the base for her ability to ignore common social conventions and write novels. Though the proposed romantic relationship central to this novel is also plausible, it does not add as much food for thought about Louisa as one might first think. It does make her more approachable for a modern reader since thinking of her without any romance makes her seem a bit monkish, and by all accounts Louisa was full of life. Our mistake in this would be failing to realize that one does not have to experience sexual romance in order to live life fully – but that is a discussion for another venue. The quotes sprinkled throughout the text from Alcott’s Little Women and other writing are well placed and remind us of the telling pithiness of her prose. As one of them reminds us, “When women set their hearts on anything it is a known fact that they seldom fail to accomplish it.” Mrs. McNees has certainly accomplished adding to a readers understanding of the dynamic and admirable Louisa May Alcott.


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