Every young girl from the late 19th century through to the present time has read at least one of Louisa May Alcott's books. My book club just finished a biography about her by Harriet Reisen called Little Women: The Woman Behind Little Women. I don't remember being an avid fan of Alcott when I was young, but I know a lot of women were. I must say, I do have a better appreciation of Louisa after reading this book.
Even if you aren't a big fan, I think you'll enjoy this biography like I did. First of all, I hadn't realized that Louisa wrote Little Women in the 1870s; I thought she just used the Civil War as a backdrop for her story. She actually led a very hard and depressing life. She supported both parents and all her sisters, even before her award winning book was written. Her father, Bronson Alcott, was a member of the transcendentalist movement and he was always starting schools and going on lecture tours... for free.
|portrait by George Healy.|
The characters in Louisa May Alcott's books were from her everyday life. But she added more love and happiness to her stories than what she actually experienced. Loiusa was a prolific writer. She wrote about a dozen children's books and her short stories are scattered throughout the literary magazines of the time, such as the Atlantic. She also wrote books for adults - there were over 30 thrillers under the pseudonym of A.M. Barnard. This was all a bit scandalous for her time!
"One of them, a novella called "A Long Fatal Love Chase," made the NYTimes best seller's list for four weeks in the mid 1990s, over a century after the author's death."
Reisen did a good job in researching the Alcotts and the literary scene of the day. You'll find that the book reads very quickly. There are many footnotes which give the reader additional history of the family and their lives in Massachusetts. The Alcotts had close ties to Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Thoreau, who helped support their household throughout Louisa's life. At the end of the book, there is an in-depth index and Notes section. I was pleased to add this volume to my bookcase of books by and about women.