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

I can't imagine my childhood without Little Women. It was the first 'real' book my parents bought me. I still remember lying around in my pjs reading it and wishing I had a houseful of sisters instead of two stinky brothers.

In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees Louisa's family life isn't the rosy picture she painted in Little Women. Her father Bronson spends his time with his mind on higher things than how to put food on his family's table, while Abba (Marmee) slaves away trying to keep them feed and clothed. The family often relies on the kindness of their neighbours. Living in this situation makes Louisa yearn to break out on her own. All she wants is a room somewhere in Boston where she can write the days away and make a living from her pen. Marriage, as she sees it, is slavery.

Enter Joseph Singer, the young shopkeeper's son. He makes Louisa feel things she's never felt before.Will she give up her dreams for love?

I was quite curious about this book when I heard TLC Book Tours was looking for reviewers. I knew very little about Louisa May Alcott's life. I knew that her father was a Transcendentalist but didn't know how that would have impacted her view of the world. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is fictional but I think there is some truth in it. It would be very difficult to live with someone who believed some of the things Bronson did. He reminded me of a character in Bleak House, Mr Skimpole, who mooches off his friends because he's too much of "a child" to think about money. Meanwhile, Abba is a shell of a woman from all the worries heaped upon her. I'd want out of that house too.

For the most part I thought the book was well written although there was too much eye rolling for me. It pulled me out of the time period. I always think of gum chewing teens sucking Pepsi from straws when I see "she rolled her eyes." However, it was certainly well researched and I enjoyed seeing this side of Alcott even though she wasn't always likable. McNees manages to make an icon a complex character with good and bad qualities. Definitely a solid debut.


Thanks to TLC Book Tours for the review copy. Please see their site for more stops on the tour. Then hop on over to Hey Lady's blog for a Q&A will Kelly O'Connor McNees.

And now for a little audience participation! Answer my poll please.

BookBlips: vote it up!


  1. LW and we even started calling my mom "marmee" (or marm) after we all watched the movie a million years ago. :)

  2. Michelle (my books my life)May 2, 2010 at 9:32 PM

    I'm surprised to see so many Amy's. She always annoyed me. I thought everyone would pick Jo. I am not surprised to see no Beths though. :)

  3. I felt like she did a really good job writing the characters in a way that combines both the reality and the world that Alcott created.

  4. I agree that Jo acted very much like a teenager. She had a surprising amount of angst.

  5. Trish (Hey Lady)May 2, 2010 at 9:33 PM

    Little Women made me want to have sisters, too! I admit I didn't notice all the eye rolling, but I could see how that would pull you out of the time period. I always wanted to be Jo, though I thought she made the wrong decision in not marrying Laurie! :) Thanks for being on the tour, Chris! Appreciate your insights.

  6. Devourer of BooksMay 2, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Huh, I didn't even notice the eye-rolling! Funny what bothers different people, isn't it? Also, can I say that I am not surprised that 60% of us want to be Jo?

  7. Eva (Striped Armchair)May 2, 2010 at 9:35 PM

    I LOVED Little Women when I was younger. :D I always find it interesting to see who wanted to be who! I wanted to be Amy, followed by Meg (although, reading Little Men made me not want to be Meg). I had a hilarious debate w/ one of my college friends who saw herself as Jo re: the merits of Jo v. Amy.

  8. Lovely Little ShelfMay 2, 2010 at 9:36 PM

    I love me some Little Women. I've been eyeballing this one over the last couple of weeks.

  9. I adore Little Women, so I'm really looking forward to this book!

  10. I must, must, must get my review up of this. Jo all the way!


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