The Louisa Challenge: January Prompts

I got started on the Louisa May Alcott kick after reading Kelly O’Connor McNees’s The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. I blogged about it here, and suddenly had a group of people signing up to read Alcott’s body of work with me in 2012. That in itself was fabulous, but just as Louisa’s fame grew, so is momentum growing for The Louisa Challenge. I’m honored to have inspired these wonderful readers and writers to join me on a pilgrimage back to the American Renaissance and one of its most revered authors.

The rules are easy; read the book of the month and comment or link up your post. I’ll post prompts the previous week, but you’re not locked into anything. As Louisa herself said, “We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving, and we all have the power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.” I look forward to reading about your response to Louisa and her books.

The Louisa Challenge for January: thoughts after reading an Alcott biography

1. After reading an Alcott biography, how did you feel about the real Bronson Alcott?  How do you think his family and especially Louisa were affected by him? Are there fathers like him today?

2. Louisa May Alcott seems like a character who could be time-traveled to 2012 and still be successful. Why did Louisa need to protect her independence during her lifetime and how would she react to today’s complex and frenetic pace of life?

3. Did you know about Louisa’s relationships with the great American writers living in Concord along with the Alcotts? How did being a part of the informal writers’ colony that included Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Fuller (as well as her father) affect Louisa?

4. Is there anything about Louisa’s life that really surprised you? What was it and why?

5. Which Alcott biographies have you read and which would you recommend to readers? Why or why not?

Watch for Mister Linky on Sunday, January 8. It’s going to be fun, friends!

Book Club: The Louisa Challenge

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I’ve been listening to a book in the car during my commute; so far it’s interesting but I’m not sure it’s great. It has, however, stirred me up about reading Louisa May Alcott’s body of work again. You may remember that I’m an Alcott groupie; I’ve read pretty much everything she wrote, including her journals as well as many of the biographies about her, and I’ve put a commemorative stone on her grave in Author’s Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord. Yes, I’m that person and I’m proud of it.

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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott (2010) is a debut novel by Kelly O’Connor McNees, who, according to her bio, lives in Chicago. Why haven’t I met her? I clearly need to get out more or read different blogs.

The Lost Summer imagines a summer romance between a local heart-throb and our beloved Louisa, who has published Flower Fables (1849) and is hopeful that she can escape the confines of her impoverished and demanding family by moving to an apartment in Boston to write and experience life. Mind you, this is early in the 1850s — she was well ahead of her time in wanting to live and work on her own in the big city, something our daughters take for granted these days.

Your challenge: read one Alcott work a month and share your thoughts. Were you brought up with Alcott as I was? Did you read her and put her aside because of her preachiness that seems out-of-place in our modern world? Are you now old enough to appreciate her? I will certainly invite Kelly O’Connor McNees to participate with us!

Given that you may not have Louisa deep in your bones, I suggest we start with a biography for the first Sunday in December. There are three seminal pieces.  Cornelia Miegs’s children’s biography, Invincible Louisa, received the Newbery Award in 1934 for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. It’s a classic and well worth reading. Ednah Cheney‘s Louisa May Alcott: Her Life, Letters and Journals (1888) is a contemporary look at an extraordinary woman of her time. Madeline Stern‘s seminal biography, Louisa May Alcott: A Biography (1950), brought to light parts of Alcott’s story that had not previously been told due to gender sensibilities and lack of modern scholarship on the part of the previous biographers. Stern was the foremost Alcott scholar of the 20th century; who among us will emerge as Louisa’s new partisan?

I’m hoping that you, my faithful friends, are willing to climb on the Alcott bandwagon with me. Comment or send me an email ( regarding your participation, and read one of the biographies before January. Each is good in its own way and will get you started on your Alcott journey.

Here’s the schedule for the Louisa Challenge in the order that she wrote them; free online books can be found at The Literature Network, but your local library will probably have hard copies of most of these titles. Louisa would approve of your actually holding the treasured book in your hand. Some of them are also available from Project Gutenberg.

January:  Little Women — originally serialized as Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy followed by the second half of the story as Good Wives (1869)

February:  An Old-Fashioned Girl (1870)  — you’ll find out in this one why my name ends in “ie”

March: Little Men: Life at Plumfield with Jo’s Boys (1871)

April: Eight Cousins (1875)

May: Rose in Bloom (1876)

June: Jo’s Boys and How They Turned Out (1886)

There’s much more available to you from the Orchard House Bookstore. I have read many of these books, but not all. Challenge me to a new read! I also haven’t read or seen the movie made of  Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (2009), so I’m all for finding the book and the movie and making it part of our book club.

Get your friends involved! I’m on Facebook at Got My Reservations; maybe we can even share some digital wine at our book club.

P.S. You’re welcome to read The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan, which appears frequently in Little Women, but I think I’ll pass on that one. 🙂

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