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American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work
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American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work

3.58  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,035 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
Even the most devoted readers of nineteenth-century American literature often assume that the men and women behind the masterpieces were as dull and staid as the era's static daguerreotypes. Susan Cheever's latest work, however, brings new life to the well-known literary personages who produced such cherished works as "The Scarlet Letter, Moby-Dick, Walden," and "Little Wo ...more
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published December 19th 2006 by Simon & Schuster (first published 2006)
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Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskeyMystic River by Dennis LehaneThe Handmaid's Tale by Margaret AtwoodJohnny Tremain by Esther ForbesConfidential Communications by J.R. Reardon
Boston Books
45th out of 201 books — 205 voters
Walden by Henry David ThoreauLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel HawthorneSelf-Reliance and Other Essays by Ralph Waldo EmersonLeaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Transcendentalism
12th out of 109 books — 50 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,958)
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Suzanne
I read this book with high hopes because of its wonderful title. Alas, it is a deep disappointment. My purchase of it was based on a number of factors including personal enrichment, curiosity and interest in the subject, a New England location, the fact that the author's late father, John, is buried a few miles from my home, and it was on sale for $5.
I cannot believe an editor would have allowed this book to go to print. Cheever divides this story into four sections. In each section she repea
...more
Kirsten *Dogs Welcome - People Tolerated"
There are certain times where genius develops not just in one person, but in a whole community. Concord/Boston in the 19th Century was just such a place. The Alcotts, Emerson, Fuller, Hawthorne and Thoreau. These are the names that populate our history.

This is a well-written condensed history of these people and their lives. It also tells how their lives intersected and how they affected each other. They were abolitionists, naturalists, and educational revolutionaries.

I love reading about this
...more
Victoria Weinstein
Dec 04, 2013 Victoria Weinstein rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one!
Shelves: non-fiction
What an embarrassment. People have celebrated this book for making Emerson and the rest of the Transcendentalists accessible, but what they don't know -- or haven't realized -- is that Cheever's book is full of egregious errors and obvious lack of understanding and knowledge of her subject matter. Avoid this book; it's garbage. Instead, read Carlos Bakers' book _Emerson Among the Eccentrics_ for a well-crafted and responsibly researched take on the same milieu.
St. Expeditus
Dec 04, 2013 St. Expeditus rated it did not like it
Shelves: audiobx
This book repeats a lot of inaccurate cliches about these writers that haven't been taken seriously for a generation or two. A number of reviewers on Amazon have pointed out its factual errors. But what really surprised me was the old-school Confederate apologia that creeps in throughout the first three quarters and grows into an ugly rant when Cheever gets to the Transcendentalists' support for John Brown.

At the start of her discussion of John Brown, Cheever mentions about as briefly and vague
...more
Cathleen
One of my favorite books of this year. More to come.
Joshua Parkinson
Jul 16, 2008 Joshua Parkinson rated it liked it
Entertaining read on Concord, Mass during the 1840s and 50s. The town was essentially a genius garden cultivated by the money and sweat of Ralph Waldo Emerson. After his first wife (and love) Ellen died young, Emerson inherited a small fortune and used it to buy up properties in Concord and lure New England's most promising minds.

One by one the freeloaders showed up and sucked Emerson dry: first Bronson Alcott and his family, then Thoreau, then Hawthorne and the rest. Margaret Fuller also stopp
...more
Liz
Mar 12, 2016 Liz rated it it was ok
My Five Question Review

Share a one sentence synopsis, please?
The title, American Bloomsbury; Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Works sums it up in a more organized, sensational, and interesting way than the book itself.

What did you like?
I have had a soft spot for the transcendentalists since I was a teenager, but I can’t say that I ever looked into Margaret Fuller. She was a really interesting ch
...more
Gordclements
Although this book has been cited as having inaccuracies I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have a love for Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson and there transcendental writings and this book by Susan Cheever was a brief wonderfully written introduction for me into their lives and especially focused on their interaction with others of prominence during that time such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louise May Alcott, Margaret Fuller and others. Some might say that they were all eccentric individuals from which they ...more
Linda
Jan 18, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it
You feel smarter after a tour this juicy little piece by Susan Cheever. Susan Cheever can really write too, although sometimes she interjects modern day jargon and her modern life into her scholarly tidbits. (Those parts of the book makes it lose it's momentum and tone.) Cheever's setting is Concord, Mass., before the Civil War. Her cast of characters include Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thoreau, Branson Alcott, Louisa May's father, Hawthorne, Melville and Margaret Fuller. Wives of th ...more
Bridget
May 17, 2009 Bridget rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those fond of 19th century literature
Shelves: 2009-reads
Oh how I enjoyed this book! I knew bits and pieces about Alcott, Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, but it was so interesting to read about them on a more "personal" level. I was not at all familiar with Margaret Fuller, so I was fascinated to learn what an important woman she was, particularly for the literary types of the nineteenth century.

The book is divided into sections, and each character has a chapter related to them within the section. Sometimes you are seeing a situation from the point o
...more
Texbritreader
May 19, 2012 Texbritreader rated it liked it
Shelves: biography, writers
American Bloomsbury is Susan Cheever's account of the "genius cluster" formed in New England by the Transcendentalists. Assembled and funded largely by the great essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, the group prominently included: writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, critic and feminist Margaret Fuller, writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau and the much younger writer Louisa May Alcott who earned her place via her father, the educator and reformer Bronson Alcott. These five authors form the biographical nex ...more
Rose
Sep 27, 2012 Rose rated it it was amazing
Fascinating book -- and a quick read! Quirky true tales of the transcendentalist writers -- I never that Emerson purchased the land that Thoreau built his Walden Pond cabin on, and I never realized that Thoreau met Walt Whitman and Edgar Allan Poe -- all these amazing writers who were writing at around the same time. I loved the short, focused chapters in this book, which give time to each of the writers mentioned in the title. I was amazed at what Louisa May Alcott went through (Civil War nurse ...more
JulieK
Apr 21, 2008 JulieK rated it did not like it
Shelves: people
I really wanted to like this book, but would've just settled for being able to tolerate it long enough to get through it. I did learn some about these literary greats, but about halfway through got so annoyed with the repetition and jumbled narrative that I just couldn't take it anymore. The author would focus on one character and then in the next paragraph switch to someone/something completely different with no transition whatsoever, leaving the impression that she simply transcribed her notes ...more
Andie
Feb 18, 2015 Andie rated it really liked it
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne are enshrined in America's literary canon while Louisa May Alcott was the author of one of the most beloved novel for girls ever written. Susan Cheever's eminently readable book about the menage of famous authors and thinkers living in Concord, Massachusetts in the mid-19th Century strips away the reverence surrounding these people and gives us a "warts and all" picture of their lives, their writing and their political acts

The pers
...more
Kate
May 17, 2008 Kate rated it really liked it
What a wonderful read. If only, if only, if only they had used this in my 11th grade honors English course! This gives such a wonderful insight and understanding into the literature they wrote, the times they lived in, and the relationships they held with one another.
Ellen
Sep 28, 2012 Ellen rated it it was amazing
Really enjoye this book as well. Put it on the same shelf with American Veda, Emerson's Wife, and the writings of Thoreau, Emerson, Fuller, et al.
eliza
Jul 25, 2011 eliza rated it liked it
this book can't really decide if it's historical fiction, memoir, non-fiction or what -- which makes it alternately charming and obnoxious.
Lauren
Aug 16, 2015 Lauren rated it liked it
A light, easy, quick read - fun for summertime, but not the book you'll want to rely on for serious scholarship. The tone gets a little breathless and gossipy at times, there isn't enough primary source material included (though the photographs are nice), and the way the author inserted little asides about herself and her family was unnecessary and distracting. The subjects themselves, though - oh, they are rich material, and it's impossible to write a dull book about them. I wish I'd known more ...more
Dave Maddock
May 28, 2014 Dave Maddock rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Not awful, but not great either. Other reviews critical of Cheever for being factually inaccurate in places gives me pause, but I don't have the knowledge to comment further. However, I would have liked this book to have been less repetitive and grapple with the issues more deeply. Instead, it was basically "crit fic," weaving a gossip-heavy narrative based on over-zealously interpreting parts of their writings as biography. Still, I did learn more about the Transcendental movement's principal p ...more
Annie Garvey
Feb 09, 2009 Annie Garvey rated it really liked it
One of my favorite places in Concord, Massachusetts. I love the old town cemetery with its slate stones. I also enjoy Sleepy Hollow Cemetery where Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts are buried. I was touched that a visitor had left a bouquet at Louisa May's grave.
I had read about Margaret Fuller before; however, I didn't know what a tart she was. If I was Lidian Emerson or Sophia Hawthorne, I wouldn't like Margaret Fuller either, and I wouldn’t let her stay in my house. I’m so glad I l
...more
PennsyLady (Bev)
Jan 14, 2015 PennsyLady (Bev) rated it really liked it
The time: mid 1800's
The place: Concord, Massachusetts "biggest little place in America," (Henry James)

Susan Cheever explores the intersecting personal lives of a group of friends, who we acknowledge as an extraordinary group of writers.
The "Concord gang" would include literary residents such as Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry David Thoreau.

The American Bloomsbury bears little resemblance to their Victorian "British Bloomsbu
...more
Melanie
Jan 09, 2016 Melanie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone!
Shelves: biography
The word "Bloomsbury" conjures a time and place peopled by artistic visionaries whose creativity changed the perception and practice of art, literature, philosophy, and criticism. I think of it as a wheel that radiated outward from Virginia Woolf to Lytton Strachey, Carrington, Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell, Lady Ottoline, Vita Sackville-West, Katherine Mansfield, Ethyl Smith - clearly, not all Bloomsberries, but artists who were reaching out and breaking barriers everywhere.

These people (especially
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 30, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much! It is simply an amazing collective biography. I learned so much in this book about Emerson, Alcott, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Fuller etc.

One of the most interesting things I learned is that Thoreau was in no way "self reliant" on Waldon pond. His sugar dadddy, Emerson, paid for that land that he lived on and Emerson also made sure that Thoreau had the proper provisions.

Emerson's first wife died leaving him a small fortune. It was that money that helped "make" all
...more
Sandra Ross
Mar 31, 2015 Sandra Ross rated it it was amazing
Very well-written. Insightful from a big-picture viewpoint of the intertwining of the lives of Concord, MA's most famous residents and authors. Anything more I could say would be spoilers, but what Cheever has uncovered and accomplished in this book is interesting and gripping.
Nomi
Jan 12, 2008 Nomi rated it really liked it
I found this book a fast-read with an interesting topic and inventive format. My high hopes in the beginning fell a bit
short by the end, as the idea of revisiting the same event
from different people's perspectives became more repetitive
than illuminating. I was okay with Cheever injecting her own
reactions and views into the mix; her voice was clear and
her enthusiasm for her topic contagious. However, again, by
the end, some of the belaboring of topics such as Alcott's
mercury poisoning seemed out o
...more
Phil
Mar 24, 2014 Phil rated it really liked it
Terrific and chock full of reveals about this famous nest of writers who changed American Literature. A short accessible read that is an eye-opener debunking a lot of what we thought we knew of this important group of American writers.
Polly
Jun 26, 2008 Polly rated it liked it
Recommended to Polly by: Mumsie
Shelves: polly
I found this time period and place very interesting. The people involved and how they influenced each other created quite an amazing community. It was interesting to me to realize that this was taking place simultaneous to the events detailed in Rough Stone Rolling, which I am also reading. The narrator was too intrusive for me, and I disliked her tendency to suggest more than she could prove. The insinuated love affairs were a bit melodramatic compared with any actual evidence. Looking at the f ...more
CLM
Nov 23, 2009 CLM rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of Louisa May Alcott
This book is full of fascinating information:

I read that Nathaniel Hawthorne greatly influenced Herman Melville's approach to Moby Dick.

Margaret Fuller bore an illegitimate child, then drowned (I bet many back in Boston thought it served her right).

However, I do wonder if Cheever accepted Geraldine Brooks' fiction about Bronson Alcott too readily: is there any documentation to support Cheever's assertions about Alcott's sexual experiences in the South when he was a peddler?

Although Cheever's to
...more
Cara
Jul 28, 2014 Cara added it
A wonderful, well researched book on all my favorite authors out of Concord, MA
Debby Zigenis-Lowery
Feb 22, 2015 Debby Zigenis-Lowery rated it really liked it
Before reading American Bloomsbury, I had not realized that the reason the Alcotts, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Ralph Waldo Emerson all lived in Concord, Massachusetts was not a coincidence. It was almost completely due to the generosity of Emerson. When he came into money as a young widower, he decided to build a literary community, settling in Concord, where Thoreau already lived. He assisted the Alcotts and the Hawthornes in moving to Concord, even helped to pay living their living expenses (espe ...more
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