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Louisa May Alcott

3.6 of 5 stars 3.60  ·  rating details  ·  625 ratings  ·  166 reviews
Louisa May Alcott never intended to write "Little Women." She had dismissed her publisher's pleas for such a novel. Written out of necessity to support her family, the book had an astounding success that changed her life, a life which turned out very differently from that of her beloved heroine Jo March. In "Louisa May Alcott, "Susan Cheever, the acclaimed author of "Ameri ...more
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 2nd 2010 by Simon & Schuster (first published October 27th 2010)
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Alexandra Michaelides
Louisa May Alcott lived a fascinating life, and this comes through in Susan Cheever's biography, yet the book is a let down. Perhaps the problem with the book is it's subtitle, "a personal biography." Most of the book isn't a "personal biography," whatever that means, but occasionally Cheever interjects tidbits about herself, makes grand generalizations about women and life, that distract from the narrative of the biography. While bias is unavoidable, I felt that Cheever's voice was too strong a ...more
I am a sucker for a Louisa May Alcott biography. This one, however, was not very good. It did not have a very good sense of chronology (especially in LMA's later years) and you would think she only wrote three books. The Author also never lets you forget that she is the child of a famous author as well. She also claims this is "a personal biography", and that she spent a lot of time with original letters and diaries, but it really doesn't appear so from the text, which often seems to be a summar ...more
I downloaded this audiobook from my library not so much because I wanted to hear about the life of Louisa May Alcott as much as I wanted to hear what it was like to grow up surrounded by people like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson Alcott,
William Ellery Channing and Henry James. Probably 80% of the book was devoted to her friends, families, and homes rather than about her life.

Apparently, Louisa developed a lifetime crush on Emerson. Who wouldn't? The next
Margaret Heller
This is somewhere between a 2 and a 3. I found parts of this really fascinating and compelling for reasons I don't care to go into. (I get the feeling I am crazy in all the same ways as Louisa May Alcott). But the historiography and frankly, the history in some places, is problematic. Two examples: she constantly mentions that doctors didn't wash their hands, but she never mentions Semmelweis and also gives the impression that all surgery was a death sentence. She also relates the story of the i ...more
1 - both my library and nearest Half Price Books have this under "Alcott" in the fiction section. It's by Cheever and non-fiction.

2 - There are a lot of really irrelevant to Alcott but not the times historical facts in here that are definitely geared towards a reader who didn't pay attention in US History at all. It's a little patronizing sometimes and not gracefully done, they're all rather clunkily inserted.

3 - The author makes a lot of parallels between her and Alcott's life and in a way that
I read this biography a few years back and I can't really recall why I decided to check out this particular book at the book store, but it caught my attention and raised my interest from the first chapter. The genre of biography is not as familiar to me; however, I found the author's execution of disclosing facts very informational and also entertaining. There was a slow moving portion at the beginning of the book that focuses more on Alcott's father, but that was necessary in order to grasp the ...more
Anyone who has ever loved Little Women, will adore this biography. Susan Cheever, author of a book I previously read, American Bloomsbury, has written a wonderful, well-researched book on one of my childhood's best-loved writers. Ms. Cheever tells of Alcott's journey, difficult as it may have been, with the eyes of a fan. This is not a snarky, "I can't understand her fame" books. I am going to re-read my old favorite Alcott books, beginning tonight. One is never too old for a good story.
I highl
I plan to visit Orchard House soon so wanted to get some background on Louisa May Alcott, the author of my favorite childhood book. So I persevered to the end of this terrible book, even though there was something irritating on almost every page. The book reads like a first draft that was untouched by an editor. The language is unbearably awkward, there are numerous punctuation errors, and the book is riddled with non sequiturs. As others have noted, Cheever's musings often feel intrusive and ir ...more
I wanted to read this book because I like the whole idea of New England as a furnace of writing and intellect and policy in the Nineteenth Century. Plus, although I am a guy, I really liked Little Women --- mainly because I think that LMA is a good storyteller. I also had visited Concord and went to tour "The Orchards" which was one of the longer term Alcott homes and where LMA churned out Little Women.

I am still unsure what Ms. Cheever means by a "personal biography" (her book's subtitle) and,
Simcha Lazarus
When I was a kid my mother took to visit the Alcott home in Concord, Massachusetts, and I still remember the thrill of being in the very same house Louis May Alcott lived and wrote in. So it was a bit disappointing to discover, in the course of listening to this biography, that the house I had visited was not really Alcott's childhood home, or that the warm, close-knit family that I had imagine living there didn't really exist. But really, that was the only disappointment I experienced while lis ...more
Kathleen Hulser
Thoughtful context for the pioneering tomboy. Papa Bronson Alcott was a giant pain in the neck, despite his satchel-full of utopian schemes, and it's a wonder the girl was not crushed beneath his giant ego. Not surprising that Susan Cheever manages a sensitive analysis of a family with a father writer/philosopher and worshiping, yet very independent, daughter. Louisa's "room with a view" was a tiny writing desk, and tales of her competing with rats and wasps in the attic to get some personal spa ...more
Loni Spendlove
Susan Cheever did her homework for this biography of the Author of American Girl's most beloved book, Little Women, but sometimes I felt like she jumped to conclusions that weren't documented, only speculated upon. There were a lot of details of the time period that I found interesting, but I felt like Louisa May Alcotts life was looked at through the purple-colored glasses of the 21st Century.

(Caution...just set up my soapbox) This is what makes me frustrated about our day: WHY is everything v
Cheever, Susan. Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography. 8CDs. 9.5 Hours. Tantor Media, Inc. 2010. ISBN: 978-1-4001-1790-1 $34.99. NF

A thorough examination of the life of Louisa and her parents. With references to Louisa's journals, correspondence and previously written biographies, Cheever presents every detail of Alcott's life through the lens of current events such as abolitionism and the Civil War. She is brutally honest, including hints that Bronson may have sexually abused his daughters. A
This is the first biography of Louisa that I have ever read, but it won't be the last. One of the ways that I know I've read a good book is that it makes me want to read about 10 other books - in this case a few more bios of Louisa, something by and about Emerson and Thoreau, and certainly to revisit the Marches. And considering my interest in simplicity, it's kinda ridiculous that I've never read Walden. And I want to know about Transcendentalism. And I want to read Hospital Sketches. And I won ...more
There seems to be a boom in books about Louisa May Alcott. Perhaps there are more out there, but this is the third bio I've read in 3 years (plus a novel last summer). Both Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father and the Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women are traditional biographies in that they recount Louisa May Alcott's life through careful sifting of the existing records. Cheever's sub-title "A Personal Biography" signals that this will be different - a b ...more
I never actually read "Little Women", but it was impossible to avoid Louisa May Alcott growing up in Massachusetts. Even if you don't appreciate her work this is still an excellent history book. Cheever does an excellent job in explaining the relationships between the New England transcendentalists and their influence on America. It's interesting how much their attitudes were similar to the modern day hippie movement -- open relationships, vegetarianism, nudism, etc. It's all there. The accounts ...more
I didn't have very high hopes for this. I liked Little Women as much as the next bookish girl, but was never especially obsessed with it as I was other books--I never could relate to Jo, clearly intended to be the most sympathetic sister, with her tyrannical moodiness and her contempt for the silly trappings of other females. And to the extent that I thought of Louisa May Alcott at all, it certainly wasn't as the kind of colorful character about whom I'd want to read a biography. But this was un ...more
Interesting ... If you never read a bio of LMA before, don't start with this one: it's not a full-scale biography. It's part biography, part autobiography, and part examination of the relationship between the biographer and her subject. Susan Cheever's relationship to her father affects her vision of Bronson Alcott, as she says, and her scholarship into LMA's life allows her to point out discrepancies in existing biographies.

It's impossible to write a book about LMA that I wouldn't want to read,
A must read for any Alcott fan. Cheever does a great job exploring the real life experiences that inspired Alcott's masterpiece, Little Women. Throughout her life Louisa May Alcott defied societal wisdom by refusing to settle for a life of domestic certainty. Her life at times paralleled that of her most famous character, "Jo.". As a result, she was able to experience life beyond the constraints available to most women of her time. This was a worthy, quick read.
Sep 12, 2010 Kate marked it as to-read
I have my doubts about this one given that I didn't much like the tone/slant of American Bloomsbury, Cheever's first run at Alcott et al. Also, I loved Harriet Reisen's recent Louisa May Alcott bio, and it seems a bit cheeky to be billing Cheever's forthcoming one as the "definitive" biography on the heels of that excellent work. But I will pick it up when it comes out and give it a chance all the same.
Picked this book up at Book People in Austin, Texas last December and read it straight through. I really enjoyed it and decided, based on the book, to order some other Alcott work, with an eye towards incorporating her into my American Studies class. Much better, I think, than Cheever's American Bloomsbury, which, although good, does not capture my heart and brain as do the original Bloomsbury group.
Paul Dinger
This book is another lucky find that I got at a library sale. I really enjoyed American Bloomsbury and I did think her portrait of Louisa May Alcott was harsh and negative. Apparently I misunderstood! In this book, we see Louisa as a kind of Jo March who does take on the world and win. I remember vaguely hearing my sixth grade teacher read us Little Women, and I remember it more than I do the name of my sixth grade teacher. I did like the book and did identify with the heroine, who couldn't? I d ...more
Sara Van Dyck
A fascinating, thoughtful biography of Alcott and examination of her times, not just for lovers of Alcott’s books. Read it not for the biographical details but the questions it raises. Cheever asks: Did Alcott have a happy life? She worked hard most of her life, had no children, never married, and had little time to enjoy the money she earned, spending it primarily on taking care of her family. Cheever says: “…Louisa May Alcott had a happy life but..she had something more important –a life and a ...more
3.5 stars. An informative read that interweaves in great detail Louisa may Alcott's personal history with that of the USA during civil war.
Crys (The Hodgenator)
I love to read biographies, and what better bio than one written about a woman who wrote the first book I ever finished as a child?

I learned a lot of interesting things in this bio, and I was surprised to see how literary her entire life was.

A friendship with Emerson and Thoreau, Hawthorne as an uncle, Horace Mann as an uncle. While the word "uncle" isn't used in the book, Hawthorne and Mann were married to her mom's sisters - I mean, can you imagine the conversations?

The fact that she wrote an
Loved the book, easy read. Having read Alcott's trilogy, Little Women, Little Men, Jo's Boys, had no idea the author, herself was a very interesting woman, in many ways ahead of her times and contemporary of Emerson, Thoreau and my favourite American poet Walt Whitman. My saddest thoughts are for Lulu, growing up unaware of her Alcott heritage. Louisa May Alcott comes across as a compassionate, somewhat austere, loyal to her family and her father, earning by writing to keep the family afloat. A ...more
Interesting to read about the author of my favorite book of all time. Always interesting to read how women of accomplishment in another time period were treated. Silence can be golden, however.

"Louisa was forming her own secret opinions and thoughts. Her journals are entirely loyal to her father. As a daughter, she never spoke a word against her father; against his irresponsibility or his bullying or his prejudice against her. As a writer, she expressed her feelings in a far more effective and
I've always loved Little Women and assumed that Louisa May Alcott based the book heavily on her own biography. This book indicates that Little Women is the story of the home life Alcott would have preferred. It was difficult to read about her father, Bronson, a self-made idealist with little formal education who failed on many fronts in his life, making life difficult for his wife and four daughters. Reading about the family's friendship with now-famous Transcendentalists Emerson and Thoreau was ...more
Karin Feeney-Cass
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this book. Ultimately I enjoyed it but I had to read it with an open mind just in order to finish it. It's not quite a straightforward biography, and sometimes it seemed all over the place, but taking the book as the sum of its parts - or as a collection of parts - it is an interesting read.

Cheever almost lost me altogether on page 28 when in one paragraph she threw out a passing suggestion that Bronson Alcott may have sexually abused his daughter(s) which
Susan Cheever does an admirable job providing the background for Louisa May Alcott's life. Thoroughly researched, Alcott's life becomes a string of unbelievably rich connections to the famously talented and intellectually superior individuals of her time -- Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne, Henry James, Whitman, & Dickinson. Growing up as a neighbor to perhaps the two most esteemed thinkers and philosophers of her day -- Emerson and Thoreau, she reaped the benefit of their wisdom and guidance. Th ...more
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