November 17, 2017
My favorite book to review: a woman author’s debut novel about strong, independent women! The author says that she is “drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told.”
Was Little Women one of your favorite reads as a younger reader? I think Little Women was my first “book hangover,” and I felt so accomplished reading a “long” book!
The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper
Genre/categories: historical fiction, women’s fiction, biographical, sisters
If you’ve read Little Women, you are familiar with the author, Louisa May Alcott. It’s also well known that Miss Alcott’s family provided inspiration for the book and its colorful characters. While many readers loved spirited Jo March (the character based on the author Louisa May Alcott), Jo’s younger sister Amy March was not quite as popular with readers. In Elise Hooper’s new release and debut novel, The Other Alcott, the author reimagines the world of the Alcotts from the perspective of Louisa’s real life younger sister, May (Amy in Little Women). Hooper’s story explores the relationship between Louisa and May which might have been fraught with jealousy, competition, and sibling rivalry. Through Hooper’s story telling, we follow May as she studies and travels abroad to carve out her own career as an artist in a man’s world at a time when women who wanted a career often had to forgo dreams of a family. Although the publication of Little Women substantially helps the struggling Alcott family financially, May experiences conflicting feelings about the way she was portrayed in the book through the character of Amy. Eventually, this causes May to want to distinguish her own life from the selfish, spirited, and spoiled character of Amy. So in real life, the optimistic, stylish, outgoing, and creative May pursues art in Boston and in Europe. At first, she is convicted about not working too hard (as she’s seen her sister do) because she also values happiness and enjoyment of life. This is a story of art, ambition, and of a brave, determined young woman finding her voice and establishing her identify. Amazon Rating (November): 4.7 Stars
Like returning for the reunion of the Gilmore Girls or Full House or other beloved shows, I am drawn to the Alcott story because Little Women was one of my first positive literary experiences with a “long” book. As I indicated above, it was probably my first “book hangover.” I’m sure I’m in good company in being captivated by Jo’s independent and feisty spirit; thus, peering into the Alcott family through reading The Other Alcott is enticing.
“At a certain point, you just have to move forward and hope for the best. You have talent. For more than just art. I envy your ability to rise along over the waves that threaten to tug the rest of us down. You’re unsinkable.” ~Louisa to May
Although the relationship between Louisa Alcott and her sister May is highly imagined, the story is well researched and the historical details are evident in the various settings and fascinating event descriptions.
If you’re an art student or artist, you might enjoy reading about the years May spent in European art studios, competitions, and communities establishing friendships, skills, and her artistic reputation.
I appreciate important themes of determination, making difficult choices, complicated sibling relationships, feminism in the late 1800s, reconciliation, and forgiveness. In May’s words, “The bar has been set high in my family for what a woman can achieve.”
“…You have to work endlessly to make your visions a reality. Stake a claim to your ambitions. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations–and that’s dangerous territory for a woman.”
In addition, I appreciate the author’s extra information in the Afterward. Sometimes readers forget about the extensive research that is required of authors writing historical fiction.
While I rate this a solid 4 stars, there are two areas of weakness for me. One, I would have enjoyed more action to propel the story forward. And two, I would like to have felt a deeper emotional connection with the characters. These are minor concerns as I enjoyed the overall reading experience. It almost felt like reading a sequel of my beloved Little Women.
The Other Alcott is recommended for readers who appreciate themes of how women achieved careers and independence in an earlier time, sibling relationships, and ambition. Of course, The Other Alcott is also recommended for childhood fans of Little Women. Last, I recommend this for readers who are looking for a solid, easy reading historical fiction selection, and for readers who might be looking for a “clean” read (no cautions for language or violence).
My rating: 4 Stars
Meet the Author, Elise Hooper
Although a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise now lives with her husband and two young daughters within stone-skipping distance of the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound. When she’s not writing, she’s in her classroom trying to make American history and literature interesting for high school students.
She’s drawn to historical figures, especially women, who linger in the footnotes of history books yet have fascinating stories waiting to be told. THE OTHER ALCOTT is Elise’s first novel.
Some readers love to reread Little Women during the Christmas Season because the story begins at Christmas time. This would also be a great time of year for a first read.
If you’ve never read Little Women or would like a reread, get it FREE if you have Kindle Unlimited (Amazon Prime) or at 99 cents for Kindle.
Happy Reading Bookworms!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
I’m eager to read Fredrik Backman’s newest novella release, The Deal of a Lifetime.
Backman is author of Beartown, A Man Called Ove, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer (novella), and Britt-Marie Was Here.
I’m anticipating this will be the perfect read for Thanksgiving week. Will you “buddy read” with me?
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I’d love to hear if you read the classic Little Women in your younger years. Or perhaps you read or reread it as an adult? Or maybe you haven’t yet read it and it’s on your TBR.
I’d also like to know if you are on the Backman bandwagon. If so, which of his works are your favorite?