The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees {Jenna’s Review}

Posted 26 February, 2014 by Jenna / 8 Comments

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees {Jenna’s Review}The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library

In the bestselling tradition of Loving Frank and March comes a novel for anyone who loves Little Women

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Little Women. But how could Louisa May Alcott-who never had a romance-write so convincingly of love and heart-break without experiencing it herself?

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa’s writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

A heartbreaking and memorable historical fiction.

My Thoughts

I ended 2013 and started 2014 with a goal to read more books that I did in the previous year, but also to read some of the books that have been on my Goodreads to-read list for a long while. So many good-to-great books are released weekly; I wanted to show a little love to my back list, too. The book at the bottom of the pile was The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. And I’m very glad that I unearthed it.

Like the author, like many, many people, I have always liked Little Women. I haven’t read anything else by Louisa May Alcott, but the author of The Lost Summer dove into not only Alcott’s work, but also her journals, letters, and several biographies written about her. In a memoir written by Julian Hawthorne (the son of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne), Kelly O’Connor McNees found a question that would inspire her first novel: did Louisa May Alcott ever have a love affair? She lived and died as a spinster, but, as Julian Hawthorne wrote, “how could a nature so imaginative, romantic and passionate escape [a love affair]?”

The story imagined in The Lost Summer is set in the summer of 1855 in Walpole, New Hapshire. The Alcotts have left Boston to stay in the country home of a generous uncle. Louisa is in her early twenties and is eager to set off on her own. She dreams of securing a place of her own in Boston where she can write and sell her stories. When she meets Joseph Singer at the town dry good shop, Louisa finds him something of “a dullard.” And yet, as the two spend more time together, a friendship is planted. That friendship grows in mutual admiration and respect until neither can deny their feelings of love for one another. Kelly O’Connor McNees spins a beautiful yarn, bright with threads of period authenticity, dedication to family, and a reliance on as much historical fact about the Alcott family as would paint a fully-filled-in picture.

I knew when I opened the cover that the story was a work of fiction. And yet, as the love story between Louisa and Joseph developed and deepened, I so yearned for it all to have been real. I cried and plead with Louisa as I turned the pages, urging her to follow the path of possibility that led her back to Joseph’s arms. And while, of course, that couldn’t happen, the author guides the heartbreaking story to a heart- and soul-satisfying conclusion.

“Life was so full of sorrow, and a body was a touchstone, a physical reminder that we are more than our grief, even if it owns us for a while.”

Girl with Book Lungs



Filed under: ESR: 9, Historical Fiction, Review: Jenna,


8 Responses to “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees {Jenna’s Review}”

    • I really, really enjoyed this book. I was a little hesitant while starting and, looking back, I’m not sure why! But it just grabbed hold of my heartstrings somewhere along the way. :)

  1. We seem to have very similar tastes in books! This one is in Mt. Read Me too. I’m almost afraid to admit that I haven’t read Little Women but it is in the TBR as well. :)

    If you liked this one (a fictional tale based on a classics spinster author) you may enjoy The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen. I finished that one a few weeks ago. It was a slow start but very much worth the read!

    • Isn’t that fun when you find someone who has similar reading tastes? It’s like locating a kindred spirit!

      Thanks for the suggestion of The Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen – I’ll check it out!

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