From Publishers Weekly
This beguiling book is Cheever's exploration of the extraordinary cross-fertilization of creativity in Concord, Mass., during the mid-19th century, when Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne and the Alcotts lived as neighbors there. If it won't offer much new information for serious students of American literature, it does provide a lively and insightful introduction to the personalities and achievements of the men and women who were seminal figures in America's literary renaissance, and who, Cheever theorizes, influenced the social activism of succeeding generations. In episodic chapters, Cheever describes their entwined relationships. Margaret Fuller was their brilliant, free-spirited muse and a model for Hester Prynne. Louisa May Alcott, was forced to support her family because her feckless father, Bronson, had no intention of doing so. Herman Melville briefly entered the enchanted circle through his friendship with Hawthorne. Cheever touches on their love affairs and intellectual platonic attractions, their high-minded idealism, their personal losses, their intermittent misunderstandings and jealousies, the years of penury suffered by all except Emerson and their full-fledged tragedies—such as Margaret Fuller's drowning. While Cheever sometimes indulges in high-flown speculation about their personal lives, she keenly analyzes the positive and negative ways they influenced one another's ideas and beliefs and the literature that came out of "this sudden outbreak of genius." 8 pages of photos. (Jan.)
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A request to write a new introduction to Louisa May Alcott's Little Women
, writes novelist and memoirist Cheever, inspired her to explore the literary atmosphere of Alcott's childhood. A daughter of one of the free spirits intellectually supported and financially subsidized by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Louisa intermittently lived in Concord, Massachusetts, where Cheever sets her intimate narratives. She explores the interpersonal relationships linking the prospectively famous writers Emerson drew in. In the transcendentalist florescence of the 1840s and 1850s, the aspirant writers tried out their ideas and idealism in conversation at Emerson's house, alongside Concord's roads, or afloat on its creeks. Moving among descriptions of such haunts, Cheever constructs a many-layered contemplation of this distinctive collection of American literary icons in their formative periods, and encompasses day-to-day events and the character of their attractions, as between a married Emerson and Margaret Fuller, whom Emerson lodged in his house. Emotionally warm and critically engaged, Cheever's history successfully evokes the incubation of Concord's literary glory. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved