Yet another new book on the Alcotts has been released, this one written by British scholar and professor Richard Francis. Entitled Fruitlands The Alcott Family and Their Search for Utopia, this book is destined to be the definitive work on the failed Fruitlands experiment conducted by Bronson Alcott (with wife and daughters including young Louisa), Charles Lane and several others. You can read a summary of the book here.
The research on this book is thorough and exhaustive and it was so stimulating to attend a lecture on the Alcotts that was not geared towards beginners! Francis is charming and witty, and very passionate about his subject. The main thing he did for me was answer the question that has plagued me about Fruitlands: why is so much ink spent on a community that failed miserably after only 6 months? Francis answers that question in his book, and hinted at it during his fascinating lecture.
Francis has written several other fiction and non-fiction works including Transcendental Utopias: Individual and Community at Brook Farm, Fruitlands and Walden (a study of ideas in 1840s New England). He did his PhD on the social thinking of the New England Transcendentalists at Exeter University.
Right away I knew I was in a different world and a pretty intimidating one at that (as I am no academic)! This book will not be a quick read and rather than do a quick review, I will instead do a reading diary (to coin a phrase from our friend Jillian :-)) like I did on May Alcott Nieriker’s memoir. Richard Francis’ lecture at the Concord Bookshop was full of fascinating information and I wrote 5 pages of notes as quickly as I could to capture all the great information he was giving. I felt like I was in school again and it felt great!
(p.s. I will also start a reading diary on Susan Cheever’s book rather than do a review – I’ve been taking notes on that one too.)
I only wish school had been this interesting when I was in school!
Here’s a slide show of pictures I took at the book signing. And of course, I got my book signed too. 🙂