Friday, April 30, 2010

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Author: Kelly O'Connor McNees
Genre: Historical Fiction 352 pages
Amy Einhorn Book/Putnam
ISBN 9780399156526
Putnam Adult 18 - and up

Publisher's review:
"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."

My Review:
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!

Biography of the author Kelly O'Conner McNees from her web site:

"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

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24 comments: said...

great review Pat! I'd definitely like to read this.

Annesphamily said...

Pat you post this best stuff! I would love to read this!

diane b said...

You've got me wanting to read this.

Trotter said...

Hi Pat! Interesting post!!

Curious about Halicarnassus? Blogtrotter Two has it... ;) Enjoy and have a great weekend!!

Catherine said...

In many ways Louisa May Alcott was ahead of her time. I loved "Little Women". Both the book and that old movie version with Katherine Hepburn and June Allyson.

Thank you for the book review.

Allie and Pattie said...

Pat what a fabulous idea to have a bloggie book tour! And I'll be looking for this one on my next trip to the bookstore- I remember rereading Little Women over and over...
xoxo Pattie

Jojo said...

Pat, You manage to constantly surprise your blog friends with your posts.

My granddaughters are too young to read Little Women but I just bought the dvd so that they would watch the film version. This sounds like a wonderful summer read - I'm adding it to my list.

Sea Witch said...

Delightful post. As a young girl, I read these books over and over. Jo will always be a role model for me. Now, the idea of a blog book tour is fantastic. Count me in if you decide to do it. Suggest starting with one of my personal favorites..."A Prayer for Owen Meany" Sea Witch

Old Kitty said...

Oh Pat!

What an engrossing and informativer review! Little Women is one of those books that I read when still a teenager and have now forgotten - through memory loss and ageing I might add!

I do however remember how I felt when I was reading Little Women and I only remember not being able to put it down.

Reading your review of Kelly O'
connor McNees' very interesting take on Louisa May Alcott has made me want to read a biography of Ms Alcott as well as Little Women again.

And of course Ms McNees's book! May I just ask Ms McNees how close if ever did Ms Acott come to have a love affair? I apologise if this is a silly question but I really do not have a clue of Ms Alcott's life! It was very interesting to read about her family here.

I always remember Jo to be headstrong and very determined and very passionate and practical. At least Jo finds true love as well as be able to make a living with her writing (Little Men and Jo's Boys)!

Take care

Gracie said...

Catching up with your busy here, damn.....Have a nice weekend!

Tracy said...

I've always loved the works of L.M. Alcott so this book intrigues... will add it to my list! Very much enjoyed this review, Pat--you have a great way with expression. :o) Happy Weekend ((HUGS))

black eyed susans kitchen said...

This will be going on my list of summer reads...thanks for the review Pat. Have a wonderful weekend...I hear it will be warm tomorrow.
♥, Susan

steviewren said...

Wonderful book review Pat! I'll be on the lookout for this one.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Great review, Pat... As much as I loved "Little Women" and Louisa May Alcott ---I will definitely read this book. Thanks for the review.

Jeanne said...

Hello Pat, what an interesting post about Louisa May Alcott. She is one of my favorite authors. I have read everything she has written. I would be very interested in reading this story by this author. It is a book of great interest to me. I assume it is already on the market.
Thank you for posting this Pat.

If you have a moment would you do me a favor and come over and comment on my grandsons birthday post. He is 13 and very excited about being featured on my blog for his birthday.I am being the Grandma today. smile.

Thanks Pat,
Hugs, Jeanne

Susie Q said...

Wonderful review Pat and I now know I must pick this up! I am such a fan of Louisa's work. One of our most favorite trips was to Concord and of course we visited orchard House. I remember standing at her desk,looking out of the window and imagining her sitting there, writing.

nanny said...

Sounds very good....I will order it! Thanks for sharing this one!

Claudia said...

I'm a sucker for Louisa - so will definitely be looking for this. I also want to write a play about her - what a fascinting - albeit difficult - life she had.

Kathleen said...

A+ for your review. Makes me want to go get this book.
And I am glad you didn't write, "The End"...LOL!

GailO said...

...You sold me on this one!...What a great review Pat...and what a nice opportunity you had to do this...

Little Women and indeed all of LMA's books were my favorites as a child... and I always wanted to be LMA when I grew up:)

GardenOfDaisies said...

Sounds like an interesting book! I read so much LMA when I was young... LW,LM, JB, Rose in Bloom, Eight cousins Under the Lilacs.

Unknown said...

Sounds like a great book! I love Little Women. I am gonna have read it. Thanks for a great review.

trish said...

I'm so glad you liked it! I agree that it's a great 'adult' version of Little Women. I think I particularly liked this aspect because I read Little Women as a teenager. Anyway, thanks for being on the tour! Great review. :)

La Petite Gallery said...

This is interesting. Loved both movies, with K.Hepburn as Jo and
June Allison. I'm going to that site now. good post. Happy
weekend.. yvonne