...or why books and tv rank higher than sleep

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees

McNess, Kelly O'Connor. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, Penguin Group. New York. 352pp. 2010.

Synopsis (From BN.com)

In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women. 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.


Louisa May Alcott is one of my all time favorite authors. I still treasure the hardcover version of Little Women that I received on my 8th birthday. I still re-read it every year, and shop old bookstores for early copies of her books. I've been successful with Jo's Boys, Little Men, and 8 Cousins, but not with Little Women. If I were to have a holy grail, it would probably be a first edition of Little Women. So, as you could imagine, I was both thrilled and hesitant to read this book. I put it off for months before I decided it was time to read a new interpretation of Louisa. I was not disappointed.

McNees did extensive research on the Alcott family, which is apparent with every detail of the book, and makes this feel much more than a work of biographical fiction. She chose to write her book about a period in Louisa's life that very little is known about, the summer of 1855. Here she weaves a beautiful and touching summer love story between Louisa and a young shopkeeper. Both are torn between their desire for each other, and their obligation to care for their families because of the failings of their fathers.

While the love story is touching and well done, the true highlight of the book for me was how well developed Louisa was. McNees did an amazing job of showcasing Louisa's struggles and her resentment towards her Father for emotionally (and financially) neglected his family. This is a far different father than portrayed in Alcott's writings. My criticism with this book was the lack of development of the sisters and Marmee. Marmee comes across as slightly hysterical and very overprotective. She lacked the dynamic of the Marmee I know and love from the books.

I also got the sense of being rushed through. The romance seemed too quick. The ending almost seemed as an after thought, which was a shame considering the amount of care and detail that went into crafting the character of Louisa.

This was a fast paced read, and another book that can be shared by Mothers and Daughters alike. Rating: 7.5/10

1 comment:

Lisa said...

Found you on the Blog Hop. Like you I got "Little Women" when I was 8 (Christmas) and it is one of my treasures. And "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys" and "Eight Cousins"...Yeah, I loved me some Louisa May Alcott when I was young!