Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review - The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O. McNees

Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott 
Author: Kelly O. McNees
Year: 2010
Page: 343
Genre: Fiction

FTC Disclosure: Borrowed from the library

Summary (from
Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O'Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa's writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

First Sentence:
Louisa May Alcott approached the ticket window of the Boston passenger station clutching a large case and a black parasol.

My Thoughts:

  • This was our book club choice for August. Not something I'd normally pick, but I was curious. I read Little Women a long, long time ago (Chinese version) so I only remember the gist but not the details. I liked it back then though, especially since I have 2 younger sisters, so sisterly stories appeal to me.
  • The first half of the book was a bit slow, and took me a few days to read; whereas the 2nd half, once the "decision" happened, it took me just a few hours, and stayed up late to finish.
  • This book was written more like a YA book and the plot was a bit simplistic. I did shed a few tears and my heart ached for Louisa and Joseph. I think I identified with the choice that Louisa/Joseph had to make - Love Vs Family Responsibility, so I felt for them. For myself, by choosing love, I had to leave my family to move to another country, thereby leaving my family responsibilities behind. It was a tough decision and sometimes it made me feel guilty since Chinese are big on family responsibilities... family-before-self... so that part really touched me. At the same time, I am career-minded, so I could relate to Louisa in that aspect.
  • As for the other characters, I didn't really like Louisa's dad Bronson or her mum Abba/Marmee either. Louisa was kinda cranky and didn't really act like a 22 years old sometime. The oldest sister Anna had a great relationship with Louisa, but the other 2 sisters, especially Lizzie, were not mentioned much. I wish it elaborated more on the sister relationship.
  • I was also hoping it would go into a little bit more details on how she wrote the Little Women. But that part was really brief.
  • I didn't think the prologue was necessary since it gave away too much. Another pet peeve - I don't usually like foreshadowing - even if it's just 2 paragraphs ahead of time, e.g., Louisa would always think back on his expression, the look of a boy, really, just a boy, unaware that in a moment his life would change forever (p160). Then went on to explain the decision that changed the boy's life forever. I think it just took the surprise away.
  • I liked the concept of the book - what if? What happened? (Since the real Louisa Alcott was rather private). From our book club discussion though, we questioned whether it was ethical to do so since it was almost making up stories about someone famous, which might, or might not be true. I guess some people might forget that this was fiction and not non-fiction, and take this as the truth. 


My definition [of a philosopher] is of a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down - Louisa May Alcott, Her Life, Letters, and Journals (p33)

Tragedy cannot be measured out and compared on a scale. Loss is loss. (p324)

Overall Rating:

3 Stars. I liked it okay, but did not love it.

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