Sunday, December 27, 2015

Book #52: Little Woman in Blue

I was planning to finish Thoreau's Walden this week - a book I have never read in its entirety despite growing up within miles of the site where he lived his life in the woods. We're going to be discussing it in book club in a few weeks.

But, I got sidetracked when my sister gave me this novel based on May Alcott's life for Christmas.

I figured it was an appropriate book to read in the middle of reading Walden. The Alcotts were Thoreau's transcendental contemporaries and neighbors in Concord. He even turns up on page four of the novel (though he's dead by page 16).

While this is a novel, author Jeannine Atkins drew heavily on writings from the era, including May Alcott's letters and diaries.

It would be nice to separate fact from fiction in this account, but I trust that Atkins reflected the overall spirit of who May Alcott was and how her life unfolded accurately (which, by the way, was not exactly how Amy March's story unfolded in Little Women).

Two key themes emerged, which are consistent with everything I've learned over the years about her family, her geography, and her era, and to which I very much relate.

One, Alcott grapples with the tension between wanting to live a finer and larger life and being raised with the belief that there is virtue in poverty and sacrifice for others and that nature can provide all the beauty one needs.

Two, she grapples with the tension between wanting to pursue her life as an artist (her passion, though she is not so confident in her ability and receives little encouragement early on, surprisingly not even from her sister Louisa!) and also to have a husband and children.

I'm looking forward to finishing Walden with this book fresh in my mind.

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