Rated Reads

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

by Harriet Reisen

Rated: None

Talk about someone who lived an amazing life. I’m not usually a biography reader, but something about Louisa and the world she grew up in intrigued me — and rightly so. This very readable book tells Louisa’s story from beginning to end, weaving in her writings as well as pertinent historical information that fleshes out the scene of her days.

Growing up with Emerson and Thoreau as surrogate uncles, the Concord and Boston of Louisa’s day is the stuff of legend. What I really enjoyed about this book was learning about how her own life experiences made their way into her writing. Her deprived “Utopian” childhood, the Civil War, her slow road to fame — she wrote about it all in both personal journals and in hundreds of sketches, poems and stories.

I also came to appreciate how much family troubles, ill health and other people’s choices influenced her decisions — I liked when the author made those connections for me. Clearly, her vigor and “can-do” attitude made her an asset to those who depended on her and the author does well, I think, at combining Louisa’s journals with other sources to help us piece together her whole story — since all was not always happiness and “can-do.”

While I did really enjoy it, it was certainly a slower read than usual. The author is thorough and I was always happy to pick it up, but I wouldn’t call it a huge page turner. As a portrait of an exceptionally prolific and creative writer, as well as a snapshot of an American life, I came away from this book with a much greater appreciation for the struggles of early American women and a sense of pleasure at knowing this incredible woman a little better.

Rated: None

— Reviewed by Corinne Edwards

Corinne Edwards is always happiest when a book is in her hand. If her current read needs to be closed for a short time, either in her backpack while she leads her three rambunctious children on adventures, or on her nightstand while she sleeps, that's okay too. Her book thoughts and reviews land at her bookish blog, The Book Nest.

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Louisa May Alcott
  • Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women
  • by Harriet Reisen
  • Rated: None
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Reviewer: