Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Author: Kelly O'Connor McNees
Genre: Historical Fiction 352 pages
Amy Einhorn Book/Putnam
Putnam Adult 18 - and up
"Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?
Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life."
From an early age I was a fan of Louisa May Alcott's novel "Little Women," where the four wonderfully distinct March sisters--Meg, Amy, Beth, and feisty Jo--share the joys and sorrows of growing up helping their "Marmee" while their father is away at the Civil War. When TLC Book Tours offered me a chance to be part of a book blog tour for "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott," I was very excited and happy for the opportunity to review it.
It is no secret that Alcott based "Little Women" on her own early life, and that she was the sister "Jo" in it. As author Kelly O'Conner McNees points out so well in her novel, Louisa's family was poor in worldly goods, primarily due to her father, the transcendentalist Bronson Alcott, whose philosophical pursuits never provided adequately for the Alcott family. His wife, Abigail May Alcott, known as Abba, is kind hearted and self sacrificing, but also overwhelmed raising four girls basically by herself, while her husband was out hobnobbing with eminent male authors of the time, such as Emerson and Thoreau. Louisa helped to support herself and her sisters with “woman’s work,” including sewing, doing laundry, and acting as a domestic servant, but she had a passionate love of writing, especially for her dashingly adventurous "blood and thunder" tales.
McNees skillfully weaves her novel around the summer of 1855, when Louisa is twenty two years old and the Alcott family has just moved to a house in Walpole, New Hampshire. The house was loaned to them by an uncle, who was sympathetic of their poverty. Louisa is desperately planning ways to achieve her independence from womanly chores, so that she can devote herself to writing full time, when she meets the fictional Joseph Singer, a handsome and confident shopkeeper's son. He impresses her with his literary knowledge and with his mutual admiration for Walt Whitman. Whitman's revolutionary style of poetry, "Leaves of Grass," was released that summer, and the author imagined that Louisa would have secretly read it and have been influenced by it. McNees entwines Louisa's and Joseph's initial feelings of attraction and love with Louisa's powerfully driven desire to remain independent and vanquish her family's debt with her writings. As I read the novel I found myself wishing Louisa could have the fulfillment of marriage and a career as an author, but I knew she would have to chose one over the other, or ultimately lose both.
"The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott" is the perfect book to read this summer as an escape back into the world of "Little Women." This time it is more of an adult version, where the realities of the Alcott family lives are more honestly portrayed, and where Louisa is even more headstrong and determined than she was as her character "Jo," but no less endearing. I highly recommend it as an easy, descriptive and totally enjoyable book to read!
"Kelly O’Connor McNees is a former editorial assistant and English teacher. Born and raised in Michigan, she has lived in New York, Rhode Island, and Ontario and now resides with her husband in Chicago. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is her first novel."
Please visit Kelly's web site to read more about her book, Louisa May Alcott, and to find a list of her readings and book signings.
Kelly will also be visiting my blog today, so if you have any questions about her book, or Louisa May Alcott in general, please write them in your comments and hopefully Kelly will see them today and answer them.
Thanks, Kelly, for a wonderfully crafted book--I look forward to your next novel!
Disclosure: I received an advance copy of this book from TLC Book Tours for my review and was not otherwise compensated for my participation in their online book tour for this novel.
To see a list of more blog book tour reviews for this book click here