Barbara's Reviews > Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Reisen
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's review
Oct 16, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: first-reads-favorites, biography, new-england, read-in-2010, gardens, history, non-fiction, social-issues, writers-and-writing, poetry, reviewed
Recommended for: Everyone
Read from October 25 to November 02, 2010

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Woman is a very detailed biography of Louisa May Alcott, in addition to a history of an incredibly interesting time in America.

While reading this book I felt as though I was transported back to the New England of the 19th Century. Harriet Reisen's descriptions of LMA, her parents, sisters, and many of their relatives and friends were just fascinating, especially the Alcott family's involvement in the Transcendentalist Movement and abolitionism. Louisa and her family were very good friends with some of the most intellectual men and women of their time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller, among others. I have always thought of Emerson and Thoreau as "larger than life" figures, and this book has given me a much better understanding of these two great men, and made them more accessible to me.

The first 100 pages (or so) of this book were focused on Louisa's parents, Bronson and Abigail, and on Louisa's childhood. Bronson Alcott was never able to provide financial support for his wife and four daughters and they lived in extreme poverty, continually depending on hand-outs from their relatives and friends, until Louisa eventually became the "bread-winner" of the family. Reading about LMA's childhood was quite depressing for me at times. The meals of raw apples, bread, and water, and continuously moving from one broken down home to another was disturbing to read about, although I do understand the tremendous influence her childhood years had on her writing. I personally preferred the latter part of the book which focused on Louisa as an adult.

Throughout the book, Ms. Reisen incorporates many, many journal entries and poetry of LMA, which brings LMA very much to life. Prior to reading this biography I was unaware of the tremendous amount of books, stories and poetry written by Louisa May Alcott. I am looking forward to finding and reading copies of Little Men, Moods, and Flower Fables.

I have not read Little Women since I was a child, and this book has inspired me pick up a copy and reread it. I was very interested to discover that the German professor whom Jo March marries was somewhat based on Goethe. LMA was very inspired by the writings of Goethe, especially his Correspondence With a Child, which she first discovered in Emerson's library.

Louisa's youngest sister, May, was an artist. I enjoyed reading about her time in Europe, and I am very interested in seeing some of her paintings.

I thought this was a great biography of an incredibly interesting and important woman. I would recommend this not only to fans of Louisa May Alcott, but to anyone who is interested in learning more about American (and especially New England) life in the 19th Century.

I was a Goodreads "First Reads" winner of this book, and I would like to thank the publisher, Picador, for sending this book to me so quickly, and I also would like to thank Goodreads for selecting me as a winner of this great book!! With the holidays coming up, I plan on purchasing this book as a gift for some of my friends!! It's a great read!

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04/29/2016 marked as: read

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