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