Second Bookses

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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott - Like many young girls who read Little Women, I have had a lifelong obsession with Louisa May Alcott, and her main character, Jo, the writer and voracious reader who never could keep her foot out of her mouth. Of all the characters in literature I've read, I've identified with Jo the most, and picked up Kelly O'Connor McNees' The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott without thinking twice.::: The Plot :::The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is based on the idea that, as Little Women was based so closely on the lives of Alcott and her three sisters, there must have been a real Laurie as well, and Alcott must have been in love at some point, but never married for some reason. Using a summer undocumented in Alcott's journals and personal correspondence as a backdrop, she invents characters, including a love interest for Alcott: the son of a shopkeeper in town.The shopkeeper's son, Joseph Singer, both infuriates and intrigues Alcott, but as the reader already knows the ending -- Alcott never married in real life -- it isn't hard to guess that the relationship is doomed from the start.The story is bookended by a visit from a 48-year-old Alcott back to Walpole before her death.::: Intriguing, Yet Creepy :::In fan fiction circles, this type of fictional storytelling about a real person is called -- you guessed it -- real person fiction, and is often viewed as something untoward; writing about real people, especially living people is "icky."The story itself is riveting if you can take yourself out of the idea that it might really be Alcott and that the situations may be real; in a few instances, there are words that seem out of time, and one particular scene seems so out of step with both Alcott's known character as well as the moral conventions of the time that I gasped aloud at how far O'Connor McNees took the story.I was torn between three and four stars for the book anyway -- I couldn't put it down -- but the final scene is what finally tipped the scale; as Alcott burns evidence of that "lost summer" she says she couldn't bear if later, biographers, etc. found it and made it into something tawdry. I couldn't help but feel I'd read exactly what the character O'Connor McNees created wouldn't have wanted written in the first place, and it's not the way you want to remember a book.A version of this review appears on Epinions:

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