The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

cover of lost summer of louisa may alcott by kelly o'connor mcneesThe Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees starts with this quotation from Alcott’s Little Women:

“Don’t laugh at the spinsters, dear girls, for often very tender, tragical romances are hidden away in the hearts that beat so quietly under their sober gowns.”

Meet Louisa May Alcott-22, stubborn, head-strong, a dreamer, fiercely determined not to fall in love, not to let the expectations for women of her day stop her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer.

It is the summer of 1855 and Louisa’s family has just moved to Walpole, New Hampshire where an uncle has offered his home to the family.

The Alcotts didn’t really want to leave their friends, like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, in Concord, Massachusetts, but they were forced out due to their financial woes. Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott, never earned a regular income as he was morally opposed to all acts of commerce and so they relied and survived largely on charity. Alcott shielded her later readers from the poverty that was very much a part of her family’s life.

But in this novel we see the family that Alcott captured in Little Women. We see how Bronson schooled his daughters in his Trancendentalist ideals. We also see that Louisa was not the favored daughter, that she had her own ideas, and that she may not have been impervious to love.

When Louisa meets Joseph Singer, whose father owns a shop in town, she thinks he is just a simple-minded country-boy. Until they start talking, and she realizes that he too reads literature and that they both share a love for Walt Whitman’s controversial new book, Leaves of Grass. Perhaps they have more in common than she thought. Joseph falls in love with Louisa and tries to convince her that she can have it all: marriage and a career as a writer. But can she, really?

This book really breathes life into the character of Louisa May Alcott as it guesses at who she may have been in her youth and what she may have experienced in her secret heart.

A great summer read.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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