The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees
Louisa Alcott wants nothing more than to be a professional writer; she wants to go off to Boston and make her way in the world as a completely independent woman. Her family needs her now, however. Louisa’s father, an ardent transcendentalist, refuses to work on principal, so his wife and four daughters survive largely on the kindness of others. When the family is offered the use of a house in Walpole, New Hampshire their lives are already starting to change, and when Louisa meets a young man named Joe, she must reconsider what exactly it is that she wants from life.
It has been a very long time since I read “Little Women” and the sequels, but I loved them as a child and so was excited to get a taste of Louisa Alcott’s life in “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.” Novelizations of famous authors such Louisa May Alcott can be tricky at times, especially versions like this that posit a romantic relationship for which there is no actual evidence. Honestly, I was a little worried that “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott” might succumb to Jane Austen-syndrome – a flurry of vaguely related novels that often border on the absurd. Luckily, McNees did not even come close to falling into that trap.
The best part about “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott” is the fantastic historical detail that McNees brings to her story. Everything felt quite authentic and I was amazed by the people with whom the Alcotts rubbed elbows. I also loved learning about Louisa’s family, since I knew nothing about her life or family prior to reading “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.” I have to say, her father drove me crazy! Idealism is one thing, but he didn’t seem to have even a modicum of practicality.
As for the fictional romance, far from seeming absurd, I think it actually helped to illustrate Louisa’s character. It truly caused her to evaluate what it was that she wanted from life and make difficult decisions. McNees did an admirable job putting Louisa into a situation where we could really be shown her character instead of having to be told about it.
Loved it! Whether you’re a fan of Louisa May Alcott or you simply like historical fiction about strong, independent (but not overly modern) women I highly recommend “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott.”