Young Louisa May Alcott dreams of becoming a writer. She’s already published stories and dreams of making her living with her pen, but her father’s situation necessitates a move to the tiny town of Walpole, New Hampshire. Her family is forced to live on the charity of others due to her father’s refusal to work, but the four Alcott girls are still welcomed by the local townspeople. The young people, naturally, form their own groups, and within them a number of love stories take place. For Louisa, the young shopkeeper Joseph represents a different life, but she struggles to fit her love for him in with her aspirations as a writer.
I expected to love this book since it seems almost everyone I know has. I did enjoy it, but I definitely failed to fall in love with it. I loved Little Women as a child; it was the first novel I ever managed to read and I’ve read it countless times since then. I still hadn’t had any idea that the family was based on Alcott’s own, in some respects, but I clearly recognized many of the characters and enjoyed that connection in particular. I was, of course, one of the many girls who couldn’t understand why Jo didn’t marry Laurie (yep, I was a romantic when I was eight years old), but I could understand Louisa’s decisions here.
Louisa’s father Bronson was easily the most irritating character of the book for me. He lectures his daughters and his wife on proper behavior and tries to inspire his “values” in them, but despite his perfectly able-bodied status he refuses to work and instead spends days in his study reading and writing. Not for profit, of course; work is somehow not appropriate for him but it’s fine for his daughters to go off and earn money to support his lifestyle. It all made me quite angry, especially that the women were in such a position that they couldn’t leave him to suffer along on his own as they should have done.
I liked the romances and the community of young people; I thought it was all sweet and well done, even if I already knew how it was all going to end due to knowing a little about Alcott’s life. Knowing the ending of the book had no influence on how I felt about the middle bit, even if I did wish Louisa would run off to be with Joseph. I really wanted more of the genuine historical background; I understand that Alcott burned her letters
To be honest I’m not sure why I didn’t love it; I felt it was lacking something, but it’s hard to put my finger on it. I feel I should have enjoyed more a book with such strong literary and historical ties. Though I can recommend The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, especially to fans of Little Women, I wish I had felt towards it what everyone else seems to.
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