Jun 072010

A Difficult Decision for Louisa May Alcott

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon Vine

For a twenty-two year old woman living in the year 1855, the options of what she could do with her life were limited. Besides marrying and raising a family, working as teacher, governess, or seamstress were some of the few acceptable occupations for women. But for Louisa May Alcott, none of these professions enlivened her spirit or ignited her passion like the dream of being a published writer.

The summer of 1855 brought a lot of change to Louisa’s life. Because of her family’s poverty and their father’s unwillingness to find work, both Louisa and her older sister Anna were planning to escape from the arduous and overwrought life of their family. Anna’s plans were more conventional, she hoped to marry and start her own family. But Louisa long ago decided that love and marriage had no place in her life as she was determined to be a writer. In fact, Louisa was planning to depart from her family that very summer, and travel to Boston where she could rent a room and write her stories. What Louisa didn’t count on is meeting a charming young man who would change her resolutions about love and marriage.

In the style of Syrie James’s The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen and Julian Jarrold’s film, Becoming Jane, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, is biographical fiction. While certain aspects and events of the novel are true, a lot is based upon conjecture. Joseph Singer, the handsome and charming love interest in this tale is entirely a fictional character. However, the reader would not know any of this by Kelly O’Connor McNees’s flawless blend of fact and fiction. Not only does the reader learn a lot about living in the 1850’s and the Alcott family, they are also able to perceive how many of the members of the Alcott family were the inspiration for Ms. Alcott’s famous and semi-autobiographical novel, Little Women. Readers will discover many allusions and parallels between the Alcott’s and the March family of Little Women. I greatly enjoyed spotting these parallels and recognizing how much Josephine March mirrors Louisa May Alcott.

Because it is generally acknowledged that Louisa May Alcott is Jo March, there has always been some speculation as to who is the real-life Laurie. Since the identity of a real-life Laurie or other romance in Ms. Alcott’s life remains unknown, author Kelly O’Connor McNees creates one in the form of Joseph Singer, an intelligent, lively, and quick-witted shop clerk. At first, Louisa greatly dislikes this charming and well-read young man and thinks he is a dullard. But Joseph soon finds a way into her unwilling heart and Louisa becomes torn between her ambition to become a published writer and her love for Joseph. While I took pleasure in the turbulent and passionate relationship between Joseph and Louisa I did feel it was a little too fast-paced. I would have enjoyed a lengthier and more developed relationship between these two characters, but perhaps that wouldn’t have coincided with the author’s time frame.

This bittersweet tale of first love is a wonderful summer read for biographical fiction fans. I loved discovering more about Louisa May Alcott and appreciated the greater understanding I received from this novel. Furthermore, I greatly enjoyed Kelly O’Connor McNees’s simplistic and descriptive style of writing. I dearly hope she will pen another biographical fiction novel about a famous author!


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  4 Responses to “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott – Kelly O’Connor McNees”


    Great review! It’s so interesting that someone remembered dear Louisa May Alcott. I’ll keep this book in my mind. Thanks for sharing!


    I am planning to get to this one at some point, mainly because there are a couple of books that I have read from the imprint that this one is from that I have really enjoyed.


    I hadn’t heard of this book! Thanks for your great review Meredith!


    Since Little Women was my first ever read at 9, you can understand Louisa May Alcott is a special writer to me. I’d love to read this book. Thanks, Meredith.

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