Book Review: The Lost Summer Of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees
Reviewed by: Nancy McNulty
Available: Borders or Barnes & Noble in Cool Springs
Each December 31, I have entirely too much fun making up lighthearted yet quite serious New Year’s resolutions starting my fresh year with whimsical, obtainable goals instead of facing eventual failure. My important resolutions include “Enter More Contests to Win Money” which didn’t work out so much. “Wrap Presents More Grown-up, For Pete’s Sake!” There’s nothing worse than arriving at birthday luncheons with the most lamely wrapped gift. I’ve embraced that one with my own signature creation involving clear wrapping paper and multi-colored ribbons.
My 2010 goal was to “embrace my local library” even though it isn’t considerate enough to be more conveniently located to me. Followed by “don’t fall for the seduction of bookstore flavored coffees,” and, most importantly “stop spending ridiculous sums on books! “
I’d stuck to it pretty well until receiving in March an intriguing viral video. Promise I’m not getting all 21st Century on you, but when the head of my favorite book club, the Bethlehem Women’s Book Group, forwarded me the “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott,” I was hooked.
(Below is a short video but beware, it is a tad PGish but very funny.)
Being a huge fan of historical fiction, I marched myself into the Williamson County Library and was proudly placed first on the book reservation list. And then, of course I couldn’t wait its arrival. When, via said viral video, author Cassandra King tells you you’re gonna love a book, well resolutions be damned, I grabbed my local bookstore coupon, headed over for coffee and a new, hardback – oh the glory of it.
If you’ve enjoyed books like “March” “The Red Tent” or any of the Tudor or Renaissance times tales where authors provide you with the rest of the story, you’ll be delighted by first time author Kelly O’Connor McNees efforts.
Why didn’t Jo March end up with the utterly charming and rich! Laurie in “Little Women” is the question and impetus for McNees’ book. If writers truly weave a bit of themselves into the mix, was Alcott oppressed by her times, her family’s finances and faced with the challenge of being a single woman writing for a patriarchal dominated publishing world? Did these factors’ ultimately impact her view of romantic happiness OR was there something more profound?
That’s the road McNees follows as she provides her own engrossing account of Alcott’s life and circumstances blending fact with fiction providing an entertaining lost summer of love in Walpole, New Hampshire.
Based on her frustration with Alcott biographies, McNees delved into Alcott’s journals, letters and historical facts stringing together coincidence and actual occurrences like memoir details from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s grandson, the friendship and influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson and a book of poems by Walt Whitman.
McNees weaves all these elements together to provide a believable and heart-wrenching courtship between Louisa and Joseph Singer, the son of a failing local merchant.
And, who doesn’t want the tortured and beloved women of literature like Jane Austen and those tragic Bronte sisters to have had one great true love. McNees voice is authentic to the point of me feeling guilty for having been party in uncovering something Alcott might simply have preferred turning to ash.
While checking out new April releases, history buffs will also want to look up “The Revolutionary Paul Revere” by Joel J. Miller, Nashville author and Thomas Nelson editor. Nationally, it’s been described as galloping “along with all the drama and intrigue of a great novel.” Judge for yourself but I think you’ll like it.