Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott - Kelly O'Connor McNees (Audio)

Before I start talking, you all need to get out your horse whips, tomatoes, eggs, and other weapons of derision.  I'll wait.

OK.  I've never read Little Women.  Nor have I read anything written by Louisa May Alcott.  I've told you before that my high school literary education was lacking, and I guess I'm paying the price now. It's for this reason that I never felt inclined to read any of the Alcott spin-offs, including this one, even though the reviews were glowing. 
Then I discovered that this novel was narrated by Emily Janice Card, the same narrator for my beloved "Revolution" by Jennifer Donnelly.  "Hey!  I can do this", I said to myself.  Just because I've not read Little Women doesn't mean I don't know anything about it.

Synopsis:  It is a fact that before Louisa May Alcott died, she burned some papers, but no one knows what they were.  It is also a fact that there was one summer in her life that is undocumented, the one her family spent in Walpole, NH, which is perplexing since Louisa kept journals consistently throughout her entire life.  Then of course there is the question of "why didn't Jo and Laurie get together?" in Little Women (an enigma that has haunted readers for over a hundred years).  McNees pieces together all these mysteries and imagines this lost summer that made Louisa who she was.

Based on a great deal of research and documented fact, a tale is spun of the family Alcott spent in Walpole in the summer of 1855.  Louisa has had some small successes as a writer, and longs to save up her money to move to Boston where she focus on her vocation full time.  It is in Walpole that she meets handsome Joseph Singer, who truly understands Louisa's free spirit and ambitions, and is a bibliophile himself.  First love and passion for her craft collide in Louisa's heart, however, and we get a glimpse of what might have shaped her spirit.

My thoughts:  I've always enjoyed stories that take place in the 19th century.  The dresses, the courtships, the expectations of women, all that hard work.  Then it is fun to see a woman with goals and dreams, like Louisa, blast through like a bull in a china shop (as I like to say) and upset the applecart.  I would like to think I would have been such a woman.

I cannot be the judge of whether the characters were true to form...I am clueless on all things Alcott.  But the ones created by McNees came alive for me.  My dander was up anytime Louisa's father Bronson opened his mouth.  I know he was all about sticking to his ideals, but he had no sense of responsibility for his family and would let them starve to prove a point.  I felt pity for beaten down Marmee.  While Louisa's two younger sisters weren't fully developed, it was hard not to love Anna.

Everything in this book worked for me.  I thought McNees perfectly captured the spirit of era, the chemistry between Louisa and Joseph, the dynamics between the sisters, and the internal battle raging inside one of America's greatest novelists.  Probably the biggest endorsement I can give to this book is...I am not a fan of Alcott (although I probably would be if I read her work), and I was completely taken with this novel.

I have to share with you the book trailer, which I saw for the first time at Bermudaonion.  It has to be the best book trailer ever.




A word about the audio production:  As I said earlier, it was the narrator that convinced me to read this book, so I knew this was going to be good.   Emily Janice Card just has this youthful voice that is pleasing and extremely easy to listen to.  She has earned a place on a very small list of narrators that I would listen to, regardless of what they were reading, even the phonebook.  (And did you know she is the daughter of the author Orson Scott Card?).  Keep your eyes open for her work.  She is going to set the audiobook world on fire.

4.5 out of 5 stars
              

21 comments:

Kate said...

I love a good audio narrator! I'll have to check out some of Card's work. This sounds like an interesting book, since I'd like to know why Jo and Laurie didn't get together (oh, how that broke my heart when I was a little girl!). Thanks for the review!

Anna said...

I have a paper copy of this book, and you've made me really want to read it. I haven't read Little Women or anything by Alcott either.

Molly said...

Well, I feel like the same tomatoes and eggs should be hurled at me. I did read Little Women when I was younger, and was not enthralled....

I have wanted to re-read it now that I am older (and more knowledgeable of literature) and then follow up with this book.

I am glad that the book was enjoyable even without prior knowledge of Alcott.

Ti said...

I was worried that you didn't like this one when you mentoned the eggs and whips. So glad that was not the case!

I read half of Little Women and got bored so I put it down for a little break and now, four years later, the book is still in the same position it was when I put it down! I'll take the egg onslaught with you.

farmlanebooks said...

I've seen this around but I haven't read anything by Alcott either and so avoided it. I still think I'd like to read Little Women before attempting this, but you have pushed both up my TBR pile :-)

JoAnn said...

You haven't steered me wrong yet, so I'll move this from my wish list over to the audio list. Never read Little Women???? I loved it as a kid...wonder what I'd make of it now.

Zibilee said...

I also have never read Little Women, but loved this book. I thought it was pitch perfect and that Bronson really chapped my behind! I think that McNees did a wonderful job with the speculation of what might have happened that summer, and the book actually made me go out an grab a copy of Little Women, only to find out that I already have a copy! I suspect that you will be gifted one of the copies very soon!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

That truly is the best book trailer ever, and I especially love the ending when it does the "in memory of" stuff. I had no idea Emily was the daughter of Orson!

C.B. James said...

I have read several Alcott books including Little Women. I enjoyed them all. Not great 'literature' but entertaining reading and who doesn't like Jo March. I think you'd like her.

Alyce said...

OMG! That book trailer is hilarious - definitely the best I've ever seen! I love that there were guys reading the book too.

I read The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott right after reading a biography about her, and the author definitely sticks to the facts when it comes to the characters. Her dad really did let the family starve in pursuit of his ideals. Of course the whole bit of romance is speculation, but definitely fun speculation. :)

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I just picked up the audiobooks of both this one and Donnelly's Revolution from my library. I think you're the one who recommended both during audiobook week and I can't wait to read them!

Nymeth said...

No tomatoes! I read Louisa May Alcott for the first time only two years ago - and I surprised myself by really enjoying her, because to be honest I was a little sceptic. This sounds great, and as you know I'm a sucker for anything 19th century. I need to get to it at some point.

heidenkind said...

I read this book last year and LOVED it. I'm glad the audiobook lives up to the printed version!

I tried to read Little Women, but eugh. Way too sappy for me. In fact, I DARE you to read it, Sandy. ;)

Melody said...

OK, so I haven't read Little Women either but I remember I watched the animation (Japanese?) during my teens.

I've read so many rave reviews about this book so I've gotta check it out.

Susan Bailey said...

This book actually made me read Little Women and I grew to really love that book (I wanted the context so that McNees book would mean more). And I've been a fan of Louisa May Alcott all my life, but more a fan of her life rather than her writings. I'm just getting into her books now (going in backwards I guess!). I'm writing about my reading journey at http://louisamayalcottismypassion.wordpress.com - come on over if you decide to read any of Alcott's works. I wrote a lot on Little Women as I read it for the first time.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I now love audio more that I ever could fathom. And this one sounds perfect! I did read Little Women, but that's because I was a total nerd and read it on my own as a wee lil one. But I never revisited it in as an adult, and I guess I could, butI definitely should pick this one up as audio since this sounds decidedly mysterious!

Susan said...

Since it has been 40+ years since I read Little Women, I'm sure I would be a little less than enthralled with it now. I recall actually liking Jo's Boys better. This sounds like something I would like to read, even though I'm having a heck of a time getting into any books these days. Too much computer time? Methinks so.

Jenny said...

When I read your disclaimer at the top I thought this was going to be a negative review and I was sort of sad, lol! I'm glad you liked it. I've never read all the way through Little Women but I really liked this book too.

xalwaysdreamx said...

that video is hilarious! and perfectly encapsulates how i felt after read and re-reading Little Women!

--Sharry

Melissa said...

I haven't read Little Women either. I got part way through it more than once, but just never finished it. I haven't listened to anything by this narrator before, but will be on the lookout for her now.

Bybee said...

What bugged me was that Amy got him. Amy got EVERYTHING! Great trailer.