Amy Einhorn Books
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
My Rating: A+
When I was a girl, Little Women was a favorite among my friends and I. We read it numerous times. We talked endlessly about the Marsh family and their activities. We play-acted portions of the book. Yes, we were obsessed.
We were convinced that Jo was, in truth, Louisa May Alcott. We speculated for hours about what really happened between Jo and Laurie.
It’s too bad we didn’t have The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott back then. It’s as if the author heard our speculations. Actually, I believe she was speculating too. Kelly McNees took some of her speculations and, what I’m sure was lots of research, and turned them into the perfect sequel to Little Women.
The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is the fictional story of what could have happened to Louisa Alcott in 1855. During that summer Louisa, her parents, and her three sisters moved from Boston to the little town of Walpole. Louisa’s plan was to help her family settle in and then return to Boston to write her stories and pursue her goal of independence. Contrary to the expectations for women of the time, Louisa longed to be a spinster and to be free to live life on her own terms.
Louisa’s goal was tested in Walpole when she met Joseph, a young man who was different from other men she knew. They liked the same literature, they were equals in intellectual debates and, best of all, Joseph truly understood Louisa. Louisa was torn between her growing love for Joseph and her goals and ambitions.
This story gives us an inside look at the marriage of Louisa’s parents and why Louisa developed her determination to remain single. It paints a very negative picture of Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott and in turn the role of a wife as seen in Louisa’s mother. Bronson Alcott believed that he was above work, thus forcing his family to live a life of “genteel poverty.” It put an enormous strain on his wife and daughters.
In addition to an everyday look at the Alcott family life, this novel features some of the activities enjoyed by young people during this time period. We see a swimming party with typical swimwear, a trip to the circus, and the staging of an amateur play. There were happy times as well as heartbreaking tragedies in Walpole that summer.
More than anything else, I enjoyed the characters in The Lost Summer. Louisa was complicated but believable. I loved her older sister Anna and of course, Joseph. I thoroughly disliked Louisa’s father which should tell you how well developed the character was.
I understand this is the first novel for Ms. McNees. I’m very surprised, as the story feels like that of an experienced novelist. A nice bonus was the quotes at the beginning of each chapter. Each one comes from the writings of Miss Alcott.
So, for all my friends, childhood and otherwise, who share my love of Little Women and other of Louisa May Alcott’s stories, I recommend this book with the hightest praise. It’s so very well done.
Challenges: This story speaks volumes about the treatment of women and is an excellent read for the Women Unbound Challenge. Published under the imprint of Amy Einhorn, this book also qualifies for the Amy Einhorn Challenge.