Louisa May Alcott: A Woman Among Men

Posted January 16, 2010 by 1 Comment

I firmly believe that every young woman should read Little Women at least once in her life and become acquainted with the March sisters: Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. If you have a sister or sisters, are super-close with your mother, or just have friends who you’re convinced you were separated from at birth, this book will resonate, even though it was set during the Civil War.

I just finished reading Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women by Harriett Reisen, the absorbing biography of the author of Little Women. She didn’t fit the mold of what a woman was “supposed” to be like in her day and age – she was independent, not at all embarrassed by “spinsterhood,” and invigorated by exercise.

Louisa made a very good living by writing. She struggled too of course, very much so, but her talent was natural and it almost seemed to be her destiny to write a novel that would stand the test of time (amid the pulp fiction of course – this lady could create one heck of a salacious tale!). She wasn’t keen on the fact that her fame ultimately came through the young adult market in her day, but girls flocked to her sometime home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, just to get a glimpse or snag an autograph (kind of a new thing in those days).

Louisa’s family was close friends with literary masters – Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne. This newest bio was a fascinating read… particularly because the Alcott women (Louisa and her mother in particular) were forces to be reckoned with, each in their own way. Strong, proud, feisty, and a little fitful… just like Jo March, the Little Women character based on Louisa. (Each of the characters in Little Women was based on someone in the author’s real life.)

And now I’m off to dig into Little Women again – not sure what number this reading will be. If you haven’t read it already, this is a novel not to be missed in your lifetime. And the most recent movie adaptation (with Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, and Gabrielf Byrne) isn’t half-bad either.

Have you read Little Women? Was it love at first read?


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