An exciting first! The announcement of a novel about May Alcott by Jeannine Atkins

susanwbailey:

This is big news – the first of its kind – a novel about May Alcott! And from one of our readers, Jeannine Atkins, author of several books including her most recent, Views from a Window Seat and Becoming Little Women (see previous post). Congratulations, Jeannine, we can hardly wait!

jeannine atkins books

Originally posted on Views from a Window Seat:

I’m in full dream-come-true mode as I announce that LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE: A NOVEL OF MAY ALCOTT will be published by She Writes Press in fall 2015.

My fascination with the youngest Alcott sister began when I was a girl playing Little Women with two friends and my older sister, who claimed the role of Jo March. I also wanted to get my hands ink-stained and eat apples in a garret, but I didn’t see what was so wrong with liking clothes or handsome boys, too. As years passed and I learned about point of view, I wondered how much the portrait of May changed to Amy in Little Women was developed from the lens of an older sister, who might have been jealous of an independent girl who didn’t feel as strong a need to please their parents.

The many writers of nineteenth century Concord gave me plenty…

View original 226 more words

May Alcott’s “Gay Paree”

Charline Bourdin of the Louisa May Alcott En France blog just sent me the most charming pictures of summertime Paris and Meudon where May Alcott Nieriker lived in the 1870s. Seeing these pictures gave me such a rush and I could see why May was so inspired. I traveled to this area as a teenager and it brought back a flood of wonderful memories. How I would love to visit this place now, knowing May walked those streets. Come walk with me …

560 Notre Dame

Notre Dame

560 Montmartre (1)

Montmatre in the distance

560 Montmartre

Montmatre neighborhood where May Alcott walked

560 Montmartre (2)

Montmartre neighborhood

560 Etang de Meudon

Etang de Meudon – did May Alcott paint or sketch this beautiful scene?

Thanks Charline!

 

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“I Will Remember You:” a video and musical tribute to Louisa May Alcott and her sister Lizzie

louisa and lizzieI created this video in tribute to these two special ladies in our lives. In a previous post I had mentioned how Louisa and Lizzie had changed my life; thus I put together this song and video in tribute.

Enjoy and spread it around!

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What would May’s life as a wife, mother and artist have been like had she lived? Jo’s Boys gives us a hint.

Jo’s Boys is tinged with sadness. And wistfulness. Louisa worked on Jo’s Boys for seven years beginning in 1879, the year her youngest sister May died six weeks after bearing her daughter Lulu. Abba, known as “Marmee” had died in 1877.

Laurie and Amy’s idyllic life

Chapter Two, “Parnassus” has us visiting the palatial home of Laurie, Amy and Bess, built on the grounds of Plumfield. Louisa goes to great pains to remind the reader that although wealthy, Laurie and Amy put their money to good use. They were “earnest, useful and rich in the beautiful benevolence which can do so much when wealth and wisdom go hand in hand with charity.” (Jo’s Boys, page 26).

Tributes to the family

The home was “full of unostentatious beauty and comfort” which included busts of John Pratt and Beth (lovingly created by Amy) and portraits of Mr. Laurence and Aunt March. A memorial to Marmee consisting of a portrait surrounded by green garland was in the place of honor. Undoubtedly Louisa was writing about Abba with these lines:

little women with marmee“The three sisters stood a moment looking up at the beloved picture with eyes full of tender reverence and the longing that never left them; for this noble mother had been so much to them that no one could ever fill her place. Only two years since she had gone away to live and love anew, leaving such a sweet memory behind her that was both an inspiration and a comforter to all the household.” (Ibid, page 33)

The March sisters versus the Alcott sisters

anna and meg, louisa and joThe March sisters are shadows of the real women upon which they were based. Meg is Anna without Anna’s angst and secret creative urges. Beth is Lizzie without the profound suffering she endured in her death. Jo is Louisa, tamed. Amy is May without the physical energy, ambition, independence and high spirits.

May and Amy

lizzie and beth, may and amyAmy started out like May but like Jo, was tamed. She became a wife and mother, laying aside her ambitions as a professional artist. Like May she was tall and gracious, giving off the impression of beauty even if her features were a bit irregular (remember the nose). Amy however returned from Europe with Laurie while May remained in Europe, pursuing her art with committed passion, eventually knowing success with two paintings put on display in the Paris Salon.

What if …

May married a much younger man and they had a child, Lulu. Tragically, May died six weeks later. We were never to know how this modern, independent, career-minded woman would have blended her work with marriage and mothering.

Louisa gives us a clue of her wish for May in Jo’s Boys.

Louisa’s dream

Amy lived out her dream as an artist by mentoring younger artists. Her own Bess was a committed to art and mother and daughter were devoted to each other and their art. Bess at fifteen resembled Amy with her “Diana-like figure, blue eyes, fair skin, and golden hair, tied up in the same classic knot of curls. Also,–ah! Never-ending source of joy to Amy,–she had her father’s handsome nose and mouth, cast in a feminine mould.” (Ibid, page 28)

Would mother and daughter have gotten along?

may and luluAmy and Bess were much alike: gracious, feminine yet fiercely devoted to their passion. There was a peaceful harmony between them. In real life May and Lulu were also alike both in appearance and personality. Their similarities, however, might not have produced the harmony that Louisa dreamed up for Amy and Bess. Lulu was described by Louisa as willful, physical and spoiled, much like the Amy (and May) of childhood.

May as a mother and artist

All this bring about tantalizing thoughts: how would May have dealt with a younger version of herself? I’m guessing the battles could have been epic and the love fierce and loyal. Nothing was said about Lulu having the artistic ability of her mother so we will never know if they would have shared that passion as Amy and Bess did. It would have been a lot of fun to witness their relationship.

May’s legacy

It’s hard to know whether May died before or after chapter two was written. The poignancy of Louisa’s loss, however, is there in any case. She gives May her happily ever after with her daughter in the guise of Amy with Bess.

How do you think May and Lulu would have gotten along? Could May have juggled career with motherhood?

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The Alcotts in my family – my sister is May!

Summer Cottage Porch http://christinehoylehoude.fineartstudioonline.com/workszoom/1433365

I embody a bit of Louisa in my writing and Lizzie in my music; my sister definitely embodies May Alcott Nieriker in her art and her love of the rugged outdoors (as you may know May enjoyed rowing and horseback riding). My sis, Christine Hoyle Houde, just launched her artist website and I am proud to show you some of her work:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can visit her site at http://christinehoylehoude.fineartstudioonline.com/

I couldn’t be more proud.

Click to Tweet & ShareThe Alcotts in my family – My sister is May! http://wp.me/p125Rp-1F3

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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!

Louisa May Alcott The Women Who Wrote Little Women by Julian Hawthorne

Check out this fascinating anecdote-rich article by an Alcott contemporary, Julian Hawthorne (son of Nathanial Hawthorne) Written in the 1920s he gives a unique perspective on the popularity of Little Women during the free-spirited flapper era. He also spills some gossip about he and Abby May. :-) Enjoy!

http://clickamericana.com/eras/1920s/louisa-may-alcott-the-woman-who-wrote-little-women-1922

Click to Tweet & ShareLouisa May Alcott The Women Who Wrote Little Women by Julian Hawthorne http://wp.me/p125Rp-1E1

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Further thoughts on May Alcott Nieriker, a thoroughly modern woman

While researching May and Ernest’s home in Meudon, France (see previous post), I had a chance to read May’s thoughts in her letters home from Caroline Ticknor’s book, May Alcott A Memoir. May was a happy newlywed reflecting on her perfect life with gratitude. In one sense she was blissfully naive but her charm was precisely the way she always viewed life as a glass half full.

Her flight to Europe thanks to Louisa’s help set May free from Victorian womanhood. She hesitated about leaving that final time as her mother was quite feeble but it was Abba who pushed her to go. One might say that Abba saw this daughter as the one who would truly be set free, thus realizing her mother’s hopes and dreams.

A diehard European

may portraitMay had no intention of returning to America: “For myself this simple artistic life is so charming, that America seems death to all aspirations or hope of work … Meudon seems a Paradise. With Ernest, and pictures, I should not care if I never saw a friend or acquaintance again. It is the perfection of living; the wife so free from household cares, so busy, and so happy.” (pg. 267, Ibid)

A different view of marriage

May and Louisa both witnessed their parents’ marriage and while Louisa feared the institution as a result, May had a different take: “I think of how she [Abba] married for love and struggled with poverty and all possible difficulties and came out gloriously at last, all the stronger and happier for so mastering circumstances, and this gives me courage, hoping her example will be always a safe guide for me.” (pg. 268, Ibid)

May is nothing if not blunt: “In my case it will be easier to be brave, because Ernest is a practical, thrifty businessman; he is young, ambitious, with real faculty instead of an impractical philosopher.” (Ibid). Ouch!

Same home life, different lives

Amy March of Little WomenMay certainly benefited from being the baby of the family. By the time she was born Bronson had lost interest in the obsessive scientific study of his children and she reaped the rewards of his seeming neglect. Her upbringing was the most normal of the four daughters.

She was too young to have experienced the trauma of Fruitlands* (see addendum) and was deliberately sheltered from many of the problems and added responsibilities brought on by the family’s poverty. Louisa took on the mantle and May was just as happy to allow it. While Louisa was jealous of May’s carefree life and sometimes resented the burdens associated with being the head of the household, she would not delegate responsibilities to May. There were times when she called her younger sister home to help with her parents but she also financed May’s trip to Europe and encouraged her to develop her talents.

Free from her family

Day 3 May Alcott a Memoir - Opposites AttractIt is no wonder then that May naively assumed that her mother had “mastered her circumstances” on her own power. Without Louisa’s support as breadwinner,  best friend and caretaker, Abba might not have triumphed. May saw the results without truly understanding the sacrifices made by her older sister. With wounds too deep and fresh, Louisa could not dare to undertake marriage. May, free from such wounds, embraced it wholeheartedly.

One life transformed, another life saved

from alcott.net

from alcott.net

Living across the ocean in France May was free from the responsibilities of caring for her family. It was not without cost. Failing to read the signs and return home before her mother died caused her great guilt and bitter grief. Yet two years after Abba’s death, May was able to move on into a new life while Louisa grew mired in the old, having lost her purpose for living. May’s choice would ultimately benefit Louisa with new hope and a new life as mother to May’s daughter Lulu.

It was the greatest gift the youngest sister could have given to her Lu.

*Addendum:

A sharp reader on the Facebook page (Kristi) suggested that although May was just a toddler, she would still have absorbed the trauma of Fruitlands and beyond in some subconscious way, suggesting that new research “may offer a potential shift in our understanding of how Fruitlands may have impacted May.”

This got me to thinking about her strong drive to become an artist. If we were to look at this from from the subconscious, perhaps Fruitlands and what transpired after that fueled May’s ambition. Art was certainly a great way to get away from the family troubles both in her head and in the practical ways that she maneuvered invites to the homes of her wealthy Sewall and May relatives. She saw art was her way to escape the ugliness around her (both physically and emotionally) and to create a life for herself which was more to her liking. And I would say that she was immensely successful, more so than Louisa who was never able to truly enjoy her life for very long.

This is why I love doing this blog, because of you! Thank you Kristi for that suggestion.

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Are you passionate about Louisa May Alcott too?
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Susan’s ebook, “Game Changer” is now available From the Garret – download for free!