Tuesday, June 29, 2010

REVIEW: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O'Connor McNees

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O'Connor McNees. Published 2010 by Amy Einhorn Books. Fiction.

Growing up in Massachusetts and in the Boston area, Louisa May Alcott, her books and the story of her family are just about ubiquitous. Her home, the town of Concord, is a short drive from my home and her most famous novel, Little Women, is a quintessentially New England tale of family and growing up, and yet somehow, despite all that, I've never read it!

Still I was intrigued by Kelly O'Connor McNees's book, a fictionalized version of Louisa May Alcott's youth, about a "lost summer" during which she fell in love with a young man named Joseph who bears a striking resemblance to the character of Laurie in Little Women, the handsome neighbor who falls in love with Jo, the main character. Young Louisa is a budding writer living in a household impoverished by her father's unsuccessful career as a philosopher and writer. She struggles along with her mother and sisters to make do, all the while dreaming of a future as a writer. One summer, her family moves to New Hampshire, where living is less expensive. Here, she and her sisters fall in with the local young people and decide to put on some amateur theatricals. She meets Joseph, an intelligent and intriguing young man.

Now, anyone who knows Alcott's real life story knows how this affair turns out, but I don't know much about her, and I didn't know how it would turn out. I enjoyed the slight element of suspense, although I suppose there was never really any doubt as to what would happen. Overall the book is charming. It's a fairly quick read as the plot and the lively characters kept me turning the pages. Written in a light and accessible style with lively characters and a vivid setting, it's the perfect summer hammock book. An obvious choice for fans of Little Women, The Lost Summer would be a great choice for popular- and women's-fiction readers looking for a delightful, sweet way to pass a few hours.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the publicist.

19 comments:

kriswaldherr said...

artandwords@optonline.net

I'd love the ARC! Big LMA fan.

Zibilee said...

I read this one a few months ago and thought it was pretty good. I also didn't know much about Alcott and hadn't read Little Women, but I still was able to enjoy the book and have a good time getting lost in it. I am so glad that you enjoyed it too!

Hannah Stoneham said...

I have read quite a few good reviews of this and it sounds like an interesting concept for a novel, so i might give it a go...

Thanks for sharing

Hannah

Erin said...

I'm so looking forward to reading this. Thank you for the review! I was just a little obsessed with Alcott growing up. When I first visited Orchard House it was a bit like meeting a rockstar ;)

jewwishes said...

This sounds like an excellent book club read. Great review, Marie!

Jessica said...

This sounds like a great summer beach book. I hadn't heard of it before - thanks!

Diane said...

I just read Alyce's review of this book today, and was not surprised to read that it was just okay. Sounds like it would be perfect for the beach as you suggest.

Frances said...

"Beach" is probably what I would rate this too. If I had actually read it, but gave mine away. Concept was just not clicking for me. Curious about this proliferation of biographically informed fiction of late. It does seem to have great appeal but do you think it has greater appeal when the reader knows less about the subject as you suggest here? I still can't decide but think that I definitely enjoyed the recent The Great Lover more because I knew so little about Rupert Brooke.

Kathleen said...

This could be a good choice for my book club. No one seems to want to read anything too deep these days.

bermudaonion said...

What? You've never read Little Women? It's one of my favorites, so I'm looking forward to this book.

reviewsbylola said...

I am glad to hear that you think this is a good summer read. I have it checked out from the library right now and I am always on the look out for lighter, more engaging reads in the summer.

Mystica said...

Sounds a good read. Thanks for your review.

Alexia561 said...

Sounds lovely! While I read Little Women as a girl, I admit that I don't know much about Louisa May Alcott. Nice review!

Marie said...

Kris- it's yours. I'll post it soon.

Frances- I think that would make for a really great discussion post- think I'll keep it in mind for something soon :-)

Kathleen- this is definitely not deep! :-)

Bermuda- yeah, can you believe it? And I'm like 10 minutes away from Concord.

Meghan said...

I completely agree with your rating of this book - it was lighter than I expected it to be. Good though, I did like it.

Meghan @ Medieval Bookworm

wisteria said...

A perfect summer hammock book is a great way to describe this one. I read it and liked it alot. I haven't reviewed it..don't know if I will. I want to read her biography again though.

Glad you liked it. :)

Booksnyc said...

I visited LMA's home in Concord when I was young and reading this book brought back all the great memories of Little Women from my childhood!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I enjoyed this book, too, and felt that, although the details of that 'lost summer' were fiction, McNees was accurate in her portrayal of the family dynamics and Bronson's lifestyle.

Envious of your hammock time!

diaryofaneccentric said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed it and that you don't have to have read Little Women. I know I had a copy of it when I was a kid, but I honestly don't remember if I ever read it.