Quick preview of Susan Cheever’s new bio on Louisa May Alcott

I’m here at Barnes and Noble, killing time before I have to attend a work event (some of us are representing our real estate firm, Rutledge Properties (in Wellesley, MA), in a town-wide spelling bee – goodness, I hope we last at least one round! :-) ). I figured I would see if Susan Cheever’s book, Louisa May Alcott A Personal Biography, was available for sale, and sure enough, it is. I’m going to wait until Nov. 13 in Westborough, MA to buy it because sometimes you have to buy the book in the actual store to get the author to sign it, and I would like her to sign it.

Thumbing through it, it looks interesting although I’m wondering what point of view it can offer that will equal or even surpass Madeleine Stern’s or Harriet Reisen’s excellent biographies. We shall see!

I took a few moments to read the preface (the print was deliciously big, round, and easy to read for these old eyes) where  Cheevers shared her love of Little Women and her connection and identification with Jo. Her description of her tours of Orchard House carried me away because her experiences were so much like mine. What is it about Little Women and its author that creates such a strong, spiritual bond between her and her readers?  Cheevers is not the first person I’ve heard describe such a strong reaction to touching the desk that Louisa wrote the classic on. I know for me, visiting Orchard House is definitely a pilgrimage.

I’m looking forward to buying my copy on the 14th. In the meantime, here are some early reviews:


Wall Street Journal

Excerpt from Publisher Weekly:
“keen, refreshing and authoritative . . . Alcott was able to exemplify her belief that an unmarried woman could be intelligent, successful and, perhaps more importantly, happy. Throughout the narrative, Cheever allows Alcott’s complex humanity to reveal itself slowly, drawing the reader into her iconic life. Lively and astute.”

Speaking of Harriet, we have arranged a little surprise in honor of Bronson Alcott’s birthday coming up on November 29 . . . details coming so stay tuned! Sometime next week I will share with you a lovely conversation that I had with Harriet and something she wrote regarding her feelings for Louisa.

I am also in the middle of re-reading Kelly O’Connor McNees’ excellent novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott in lieu of an interview by email that I will be doing with her soon. I will write a review of that book when I finish which also will be soon.

My goodness, did I ever pick the perfect time to go on my Louisa reading binge after so many years!

6 Replies to “Quick preview of Susan Cheever’s new bio on Louisa May Alcott”

  1. I’m wondering if it can compete with LMATWBLW. That bio was excellent and it had new information or speculation and it had a part on Lulu’s memories.

    My copy of this book came today. One thing that annoyed me, same tired old pics of LMA. I know Orchard house has a slew, I saw new ones in the documentary. Why not throw some new ones out there for the public to see.

    I’m starting the book tonight.

  2. Around 60 pages in and so far I’m not getting my socks blown off. Its a good beginner bio, but thats about it. The author made an interesting comment(I’ll go into that later) and it was kinda like she said “ohh I”m making this shocking statement ” and then she runs off and hides in the bushes. There is just one little sentance of evidence to back it up. That’s weak evidence. I’m like if you are going to present an argument it better be backed up better than that. And she makes a shocking claim. I’m not saying I’m so outraged by the claim that it can’t be true, but I need more evidence.

    1. I kind of got that impression from the preface but I still really wanted to read it anyway. I’ll still get my copy next Saturday when she comes, just because. And besides, the way it is typeset makes it so easy to read. 🙂

  3. Dont get me wrong, I’m glad I bought it. I’m always interested to read more, but the problem is there isn’t anything more in this bio. In fact, I think that Louisa’s voice hardly comes through in this book. I’m in the 120s now. I hope to have it done by the weekend and put a review up on Amazon.

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