Friday, September 9, 2011

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

 Louisa May Alcott, author of the beloved classic Little Women, wrote convincingly of love.  How so when she herself was a spinster?  Here Kelly O'Connor McNees attempts to answer that question by writing of Louisa's lost summer of 1855 where her family stayed in Walpole, NH.  It was here that Louisa would meet Joseph Singer, a local store owner who falls for her.  Denying that she returns his sentiments at first, Louisa must decide if she should stick to her dream of becoming a great independent writer or risk it all for this chance at love.

This was a cute story.  The author's writing style reminds me very much of Louisa May Alcott herself maybe because of the familiarity of the characters. In McNees' story all of Alcott's Little Women characters are based on her sisters.  Louisa is closest to her sister Anna who she based the character of Amy on. When the Alcott's come to Walpole they seek to fit in as much as possible despite having no money due to their father Bronson refusing to work because it violates his convictions (much like Mr. March).  It is on a trip to the local store to buy as much flour as the meager amount of money they have will get them that Louisa meets Joseph Singer.  Louisa is stand offish at first but slowly grows to care for Joseph and it is clear he admires her.  As their feelings intensify, Louisa becomes conflicted about her destiny which she always thought was to be an independent woman destined for spinsterhood and a writer.  You can see Jo shine through in the form of Louisa.

 This book didn't really have much going in the plot department other than the "Will Louisa choose Joseph Singer or her writing career?" angle.  It mainly describes rather mundane stuff that occurs over the summer (although there is a romantic misunderstanding and a tragedy).  The lack of exciting happenings made the book move a little slowly at times.  While Jo in Little Women may have had a snafu or two, she always had her heart in the right place.  Here Louisa is strong willed and at times selfish which makes her a little harder to love than the character she is supposed to resemble. There is a point of transition towards the end that I thought was quite abrupt and it kind of threw me off a little. We go from the story of Louisa as a young woman to meeting her as an old woman seeking out Joseph Singer after all these years and even though the whole story started with the older Louisa boarding a train for this purpose,I thought the switch from her recalling the lost summer to the present could have been a little smoother.  I think people who have read Little Women will definitely like this one as it channels the beloved characters from the book and it is nice to see what the author who created such engaging characters might have been like. This was a good lazy weekend read and has piqued my curiosity enough to want to pick up a biography at some point to see what Ms. Alcott was really like (and if it matches up with McNees version).

 This book is from my own personal library.


  1. I have this on my shelf and really expected to read it this summer. Time got away from me so hopefully I can get to it before next summer. I enjoyed your review.

  2. I really enjoyed this book, but you do need to be a big fan of Louisa May Alcott going into it, otherwise it won't grip you the same way. I adored Little Women as a child but haven't read it in years. After I was done reading Lost Summer, I went to the bookstore and bought a copy of Little Women. I'm very fortunate to be living only an hour or two away from Orchard House, the house where LMA wrote her most famous novel. It also served as the direct inspiration for the March family home, so you can pretty much use the novel as a guidebook while walking through the house. I can't wait to visit!