Title: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Author: Kelly O’Connor McNees
Release Date: April 1, 2010
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Because of her father’s refusal to work due to his philosophical principles, Louisa May Alcott and her family (her father, mother, and three sisters) have been forced to move to Walpole. There, they will live in a house at the charity of her father’s friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. In the small town of Walpole, Louisa dreams of returning to Boston and pursuing a writing career. She looks forward to a life of spinsterhood, without any marital obligations, and doesn’t realize that falling in love could threaten that dream.
I don’t know a lot about Louisa May Alcott, which is part of the reason I really wanted to read this book. With most historical fiction I read, I know how the story is going to turn out because I know the history behind the novel. In this case, I didn’t, and therefore savored every word. I was on edge, wondering what choices Louisa might make and if she would ever find happiness.
The core of this novel is the character of Louisa May Alcott herself. McNees breathes life into this complicated woman, making her really come alive for the reader. I loved Louisa’s internal battle; she wanted to become a writer, but in order to do that, she couldn’t be trapped by marriage. She actually looked forward to being a spinster, a word with negative connotations even now. But at the same time, she does want love and happiness and all it brings with it. In fact, she seems to get mad at herself at certain points in the novel because she wishes she could be content with less than she knows she wants.
The historical details of The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott are really satisfying. McNees does a wonderful job demonstrating how women of the time kept themselves busy during the day, something I’ve always wondered. Additionally, her incorporation of Transcendentalist views into the novel is very interesting. Many times, I wanted to throttle Louisa’s father because he refused to work to provide for his family. It was frustrating, yet added a lot of color to the novel and helped the reader to understand Louisa’s desperation all the more.
I loved how complicated and layered McNees made Louisa. She had her own motives and desires, even some that seem to be kept hidden from the reader. At the same time, though, the story is simple and beautiful. It’s an easy, enjoyable novel to read, and will really transport the reader. I can’t recommend The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott highly enough – I will be waiting in breathless anticipation for Kelly O’Connor McNees’ next novel!