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Marmee & Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother

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3.87 of 5 stars 3.87  ·  rating details  ·  734 ratings  ·  200 reviews
Louisa May Alcott was one of the most successful and bestselling authors of her day, earning more than any of her male contemporaries. Her classic Little Women has been a mainstay of American literature since its release nearly 150 years ago, as Jo March and her calm, beloved “Marmee” have shaped and inspired generations of young women. Biographers have ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Free Press
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Gina Enk
Ah, the Alcotts! I first read Little Women when I was about seven and then read my way through all of Alcott's children's books (several times each). While my collection stayed on my bookshelf and moved with me from place to place, I didn't re-read until I read Geraldine Brooks's fabulous historical fiction novel, March. Happily, there have been a lot of Alcott related books published recently. This one is really well researched, interesting and even infuriating at times as Bronson Alcott plowed ...more
Kyrianna
I won this book in a GoodReads contest. First off I loved the fact that someone had an interest in finding out the truth not only about a beloved writter but of Family. Family really is important. For a non fiction book the writting style really did keep me entertained which I gotta admit I wasn't expecting. This book also made me realize how people really do influence our lives wheather we know it or not! If you love Little Women you will love this book!
Bridget
I was lucky enough to get an Advanced Readers' Edition of this book, and I couldn't wait to read it! It was a great read.

The basic premise of the book is that although most people think that Louisa May Alcott's father, Bronson Alcott, was the main influence in her life and writing, that person was in fact her mother, Abigail May Alcott. Abigail was a woman ahead of her time, who dreamed of being able to do what she wanted with her life, at a time when marriage was pretty much the only choice for
...more
Brenda
“’There are plenty [of people] to love you,’ Marmee tells Jo in Little Women, “so try to be satisfied with father and mother, sisters and brother, friends and babies, till the best lover of all comes to give you your reward.’

Louisa’s alter ego replies, ‘Mothers are the best lovers in the world; but I don’t mind whispering to Marmee, that I’d like to try all kinds. It’s very curious, but the more I try to satisfy myself with all sorts of natural affections, the more I seem to want.’” (qtd. on 28
...more
Julie
Almost more than a biography, Eve LaPlante's Marmee and Louisa reads like a romance novel: a love affair between a mother and a daughter; a love affair between Eve LaPlante and her great-aunt, Abigail May Alcott. It occurs to me that LaPlante fell in love with her great-aunt the day she discovered Abigail's forgotten letters, in the attic of her home. The act of discovery itself reads like an early Louisa May romance.

I, too, fell in love with the real Marmee, if truth be told. Within these pages
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Chaitra
"Unhappily, his conversation never loses sight of his own personality….His topic yesterday is Alcott on the 17th October; today, Alcott on the 18th October….", Ralph Waldo Emerson about Bronson Alcott.

This is the quote that defined this book for me. Yes, I know, the book is called Marmee and Louisa. And it is, for the most part, a dual biography of Louisa May Alcott and her mother Abigail "Marmee" Alcott. But, it also, and not too subtly may I add, a criticism of Bronson Alcott. From my reading
...more
Ann
"Marmee & Louisa" was a fascinating look at America before, during and after the Civil War. It is the story of Louisa May Alcott and her amazing mother. They counted many well-known historical figures among their friends and family. Abigail, (Marmee), was John Hancock's niece and related to Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams. Their friends included Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Susan B. Anthony, Emerson and Thoreau. Abigail Alcott was very well-connected in Boston society with ...more
GotMyReservations
I have been a Louisa May Alcott junkie for as long as I can remember and have read most of what has been written by her and about her. When I was contacted by Eve LaPlante about guest posting on my blog, I told her I wanted to read Marmee and Louisa and review the book before she did a guest post. I'm glad she contacted me; the book is a loving portrait of the relationship between LMA and her mother by a member of Louisa's family, and is based on family documents. We know that LMA was influenced ...more
Jaylia3
Louisa May Alcott’s mother Abigail (or Marmee) gets her due by being front and center in this informative, fascinating, and sometimes heartbreaking book. Although much more has been written about Louisa’s idealistic but self-centered father Bronson Alcott, author Eve LaPlante makes a convincing case that it was her mother Louisa was closest to and most like.

Abigail was a lively, convention breaking young woman, and was at least as bent on improving the world as her husband--for instance she emb
...more
Frrobins
I thought I knew the Alcotts from reading "Little Women." I thought wrong. The story of the Alcott's is different from that of the Marches. Included in it is the story of the history of the Abolitionist movement and the Women's Suffrage movement. Abigail Alcott, Louisa May Alcott, Samuel Joseph May and others are the Americans you can look back on in history and be proud of.

This was not just the story of social movements, though, it is also the story of a dysfunctional family. I'd always assume
...more
Louise
Through the description of this close mother-daughter bond, we finally have a realistic picture of the Alcott family dynamics. Eve LaPlante, using original letters and journal fragments she inherited from her May forbears, discusses what should have been obvious: Abigail May Alcott was the main influence on Louisa Mae Alcott, not her father, Bronson.

This book challenges conventional wisdom on the Alcott family. The Pulitzer Prize winning Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Fa
...more
Janet
Aug 11, 2012 Janet marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Really hoping I win this book. Little Women was the very first book I bought with my own money when I was a child. My Granfather would give me a dollare each week and I remember going to Kreskgee's in the strip mall with my grandparents and chose that book. For a young girl this is a true classic and would love to know more about Louisa May Alcott.
Jenny
Remember when March by Geraldine Brooks came out and we were all like, 'that was way harsh Ty!' ?

The actual real-life account of Bronson Alcott is so much worse.

I really enjoyed this book and a kind of behind the scenes look at the making of Little Women and the Alcott women and their life and political activism and significant role in American History, but it was also so heart wrenching. I felt so bad for Louisa May Alcott and love her and her writing in a completely different way than before.
...more
Jessica
Heard a presentation by the author last week.
Reader50
Reading "Marmee & Louisa" was like a review of American history. Having loved "Little Women" as a young girl and subsequently viewing two film adaptations of it, I was anxious to learn more about the author and her mother. Their story included a cast of many well-known historical figures with whom they were related or acquainted. Abigail, Marmee, was John Hancock's niece and related to Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams. Their circle of friends included Walt Whitman, Nathaniel Hawth ...more
Brooke
I really enjoyed this. Little Women is one of my favorites, so I've always been interested in Louisa May Alcott and her family. It was especially interesting to be given a view of Louisa's relationship with her mother after having read Eden's Outcasts in which her relationship with her father is detailed. The Boston area during the 1800s was populated with fascinating people, and I loved seeing them intersect with the Alcotts and their relations. Now I have to go back to Boston (a marvelous plac ...more
Terryann
LaPlante, Eve. Marmee & Luisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother. Unabridged. 12 CDs. 14.5 Hours. Tantor. 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4526-1046-7. $39.99. F

Louisa May Alcott is one of the most iconic female writers of all time. A trailblazer and mainstay in American Literature, Louisa has always been framed by historians as her father’s daughter, molded in his image. LaPlante reveals in her diligent investigation that while Bronson Alcott certainly influenced Louisa, he absent, dist
...more
Beth
This biography of "Little Women" author Louisa May Alcott and her mother, Abigail May Alcott, the inspiration for Marmee is written by a descendant of the Alcotts who found a trove of letters and journals in a family attic. It's an absolutely fascinating account of Abigail's life and travails as the wife of the brilliant, but impratical husband Bronson Alcott. Abigail was born into the Boston Brahmins, but suffered a huge reversal of fortunes when she aligned her wagon to Bronson Alcott. Bronson ...more
Jennifer
I mowed through this book in six days. It's brilliant. The author weaves all the major historical events of the time with the lives of the women, Abigail and Louisa May Alcott, seamlessly, comparing their struggles against that of women and slaves in the country throughout this turbulent time in American history.

I grew up reading "Little Women" and have considered it one of my most influential and important books, but I never bothered to research the woman who wrote it. Louisa and her mother we
...more
Cordelia Livingston
Wow...this was one of the best books I have read in a long time. I have been a fan of all of LMA's books since I was a young girl reading them. I had always heard the same tripe that we have all been fed...that Bronson Alcott and the men in Louisa's life were the great influence on Louisa and led her to be the woman and writer that she became. Wrong. Let me first say that I am a strong believer in a father's influence in a daughter's life, and I am not a man hater. That being said, though, by th ...more
Qnpoohbear

This new biography, by a relative of Abigail May Alcott's pieces together a story largely from forgotten primary sources. After Abigail died, the family burned her diaries and many of her letters. Bronson edited and copied over other papers and so scholars believed there was nothing from Abigail herself. As a librarian and historian, I appreciated all the hard work Eve LaPlante did to locate personal papers of the Mays and Alcotts. She did an amazing job compiling information and adding to the b
...more
Katia Arida
This is a gripping, thoughtful, readable account of a famous but misunderstood mother and daughter living in the 19th century, It reads like a novel and is hard to put down. The author, Eve LePlante, is certainly passionate about her subject and loyal to both Louisa and Marmee, who she is actually related to. The story of these two women gives readers an opportunity not just to glimpse life in 19th century America (mostly Boston and Concord) but also a glimpse into the harsh realities of life fo ...more
Orinoco Womble (tidy bag and all)
I haven't finished this yet, but I do find it a revelation. I'm actually listening to the Audiobook, which means I can't check footnotes etc. as I might with an ebook or paper book. It turns out that Branson Alcott was a self-made man, to the point of changing his name from Alcox to something more "aristocratic". In my youth he would have been called a spellbinder or simply shiftless--"unable to make or keep" in my mother's old phrase. He saw himself as "Christ resurrected"--no wonder he couldn' ...more
Dawn
Perhaps it was with idealistic eyes that I read the blurb of this Good Reads Giveaway entry. Perhaps I became carried away envisioning the mingled scenes created between the reading of "Little Women" as a young person and then viewing the film as I raised children of my own. It is rare that I need to admit that a book has bested my interest, but that one has. Ms. LaPlante has done an exceptional work that showcases her research in a welcoming style, however the welcome did not encourage me enoug ...more
Jill
A wonderful biography of both Louisa May Alcott and Abigail May Alcott, as well as the May family. Interesting and enlightening. Very well-written. I couldn't put it down! I especially enjoyed that it looked at how Abigail affected and influenced her daughter, and how their relationship affected them both. While Bronson gets much of the attention in discussions of Louisa's childhood and adult life, LaPlante argues that her mother was much more of an influence on her character and development as ...more
Roberta Weiner
Wonderfully researched and fascinating but honestly very depressing. It's one thing to know intellectually that women had no rights, but to read about their virtual enslavement to the whims of the "great men" of their times is incredibly sad. I give the author a lot of credit for telling the story truthfully, instead of the sugar-coated, patrilineal version we're heard forever. My mind is spinning as I try to reconcile this with the Little Women play I'm currently directing, as well as the cheer ...more
Jennifer Locke
Fascinating dual biography of Louisa May Alcott and the person who most shaped her life and encouraged her writing: the real "Marmee." Wrapped up in their story are the stories of abolitionism, early-American feminism, the Civil War, etc.; luminaries such as Emerson, Thoreau, and John Brown make cameos as mother and daughter live their lives against the backdrop of one of America's most interesting and tumultuous times. Recommended for anyone who loves American history, especially those with a s ...more
Robin Moore
Very surprised by this book. I had to read it for a class and thought it would be ho-hum. Instead I found it very interesting. Both Louisa May Alcott and her mother, Abigail May Alcott are very remarkable women. Louisa's mother, Abigail, was way ahead of her time in her thinking. Although her gender held her back and she could not achieve all that she may have wanted to, she never lost her passion for gender equality. Seeing that her daughter, Louisa, was talented at an early age she urged, prod ...more
Gaele
AudioBook Review:
Stars: Overall: 5 Narration: 5 Story: 5

One element that always struck me when I read Little Women was the lack, or adjunct roles that the men play in the story. Sure, there is Lorrie, and the oft-absent father, but the sense that the men were little more than window dressing and diversions held with me throughout every reading. For it was Marmee who kept the story moving, the touchstone and steady forward moving element that the girls all looked to for comfort, approval and sec
...more
Laurene Powers
Since Louisa is Kerri's favorite author, we have both read several books about Louisa's life. Most depict her father Bronson as the parent who most encouraged her and with whom she had the closer relationship. In most books, her mother plays a minor role in Louisa's life. I was VERY excited to realize this was not the case. The author of this non fiction book was a great niece of Louisa's mother who made a surprising discovery several years ago when she came across several journals and writings ...more
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MARMEE & LOUISA, Eve's groundbreaking biography of Louisa May Alcott and her mother, is out in paperback. MY HEART IS BOUNDLESS, the first compilation of the private papers of Abigail May Alcott, the real "Marmee," which Eve edited, is also available in paperback.

Eve's previous books are the biographies AMERICAN JEZEBEL and SALEM WITCH JUDGE, the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award for Non
...more
More about Eve LaPlante...
American Jezebel: The Uncommon Life of Anne Hutchinson, the Woman Who Defied the Puritans Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall Seized: Temporal Lobe Epilepsy as a Medical, Historical, and Artistic Phenomenon My Heart is Boundless : Writings of Abigail May Alcott, Louisa's Mother

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