Book Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott ~ A Novel
Author: Kelly O’Connor McNees
Original Publication Date: 2010
Edition Read: The Berkley Publishing Group/Penguin, 2011
Total Pages: 376
Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Retro Classic
Reason Read: Won in a giveaway
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars
“Anna yearned for things, but they were all within the boundaries of acceptability. What Louisa wanted – to have freedom and money of her own, lots of it, so that she could control her fate and take care of her parents, to come and go as she pleased, to have an apartment of her own, with big bright windows and a desk so wide she could curl up to sleep on top of it when the words wouldn’t come – these weren’t the sorts of yearnings one discussed at parties.” ~ Chapter 9 (pg. 167)
Well, I don’t know what kind of parties Louisa went to, but I find her yearnings perfectly normal. Who wouldn’t want to curl up and sleep on their writing desk? Ah, but I think this is why the world is so fascinated by Ms. Alcott – she accomplished what so many young women have dreamed of forever – independence on her own terms, recognition and acceptance, success. In her day, it was trail blazing. In my day, it is realistic.
Ms. Alcott wrote the young adult Classic, “Little Women” – among many many many others. Based almost entirely on her own life, the character most closely mirroring the author herself is Jo. Determined to choose her writing talents and desires over even love, I admired her determination but also felt sad that she forsake true love in the process. In the book, Jo does eventually find love later in life. In Ms. Alcott’s life, this did not appear to have happened. The author of this fictional book seeks to fill in the gap of a period of time less well-known about Ms. Alcott and give her that torrid love affair her fans always hoped she might have.
I have been to Orchard House (see photos and post here)- the home of the Alcotts in Concord, Massachusetts where Ms. Alcott wrote her famous tales and struggled with her father’s stubborn ideals and the lot that women were put into in her society. I have watched documentaries about Ms. Alcott. I have read her work. I do not believe that she could have had the romantic summer that is depicted in this book. I just don’t. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t rooting for it to be true. I am a mushy romantic inside and got completely caught up in the passion living within Louisa through this book.
I did feel that at times McNees seemed to force the facts within her story to make it more credible or believable. It had that feel of “look what I know – look at all of my great research” and it irked me. But perhaps if you were not so familiar with Ms. Alcott’s real world, it wouldn’t be so intrusive in this sweet but sad fantasy inspired by and made just for her.
I wonder what Ms. Alcott herself would think of this effort? I hope that she would be pleased to know she inspired another young woman to write. I’m sure she would have felt it ridiculous that she be the subject. I enjoyed thinking about these things while escaping back in time to a place where Louisa had a taste of what she never allowed Jo to do.