The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees

McNees became so intrigued with the life of Louisa May Alcott that she read every biography that she could find, plus Louisa’s letters and journals.  She decided to write a novel about Alcott after reading a memoir by Julian Hawthorne, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son.  He had lived near the Alcotts, and he wrote, “Did she ever have a love affair?  We never knew.  Yet how could a nature so imaginative, romantic and passionate escape it?”  McNees decided to imagine a romance for Louisa as the basis for her novel.  To supplement her extensive knowledge of Alcott’s life, she studied the books which Alcott loved and read widely about life in 19th century New England.

The novel takes place in 1855, when the Alcotts spent the summer in Walpole, New Hampshire.  As McNees imagines it, Louisa, now a young woman, has never shown any interest in men.  Her life goal is writing, and she wants her independence.  When she meets Joseph Singer, she is torn by conflict between her dreams and her love for him.

Since Little Women was partially based on Louisa’s family life, some characters in this novel will be familiar, although Louisa changed the names when writing her novel.  Louisa’s father, Branson, is lost in a world of philosophy, with little interest in providing financially for his family.  Her mother is much more troubled than in Louisa’s depiction of her in Little Women.  Louisa’s sisters are Anna, who dreams of happiness in a traditional role of marriage and children, Lizzie, frail and gentle, and young May, beautiful and charming.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott will interest readers who enjoy historical novels, especially those who have enjoyed Alcott’s writings.

(Helen Snow, Information Services)

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