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Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father Hardcover – August 17, 2007
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Top Customer Reviews
In spite of its title -- which gives misleading higher billing to Louisa -- this book is indeed a dual biography that documents a complex father-daughter and writer-writer relationship. Chronologically, the treatment has to first study Amos Bronson Alcott (1799-1888), from his beginnings on a farm in Wolcott, Connecticut, and a rural education that, unlike other Transcendentalist men, did not include a college degree. Working first as a peddler, he later landed what seemed to be the perfect job for such a thoughtful, self-taught young man: school teacher. Soon enough he was married to Abba May (1800-1877) and had a household of little women -- daughters Anna Bronson (1831-1893), Louisa May (1832-1888), Elizabeth Peabody/Sewell (1835-1858), and Abigail May (1840-1879). Matteson follows Bronson's myriad attempts to find suitable jobs as well as every subsequent relocation the family made, covering a good portion of the Northeast and New England. He turns to Louisa as she moves to the family forefront, and also when she serves time as a nurse in a Union Army hospital. Because each member of the family kept a journal, much of their daily lives and thoughts are available to us -- at least, those events and feelings that they took the time to document. Diaries were not kept private in those days.Read more ›
I read this book like a thriller, finishing it in three days.
I was a young reader of Little Women (maybe 10 times) and the rest of the series. Later as an adult, I never quite put together the pieces the family. Now I know how the Alcotts fit in with Emerson and Thoreau, the role of Fruitlands in the life of the Alcotts and how it was the Amy came to marry Laurie.
The above paragraph could sound flip without the understanding of how Louisa's fiction was a byproduct of both her father's idealism and his inability to support his family. Louisa would be his standard bearer, but she would at all costs, support the family.
Bronson's philosophy of education was ahead of his time. While it can be debated whether his career ending publications served the cause, it is clear, it did not serve the family well. Followed by a second public humiliation in the touted but failed Fruitlands experiment, you can imagine the grief of a former idealist with a young family to feed.
How many father's careers have been rescued by their children... and in the 19th century... any by their daughters? In the case of the Alcotts, it is more than a career redeemed, it is also values and virtues.
Matteson gives a wonderfully readable dual biography. He sticks with his thesis. It's good that he resisted the temptation to delve into the other interesting personalities of the time. Just like when I first read Little Women, I didn't want this book to end.
I can and do recommend this book.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Amazing research. Quotes from so many private letters, written notes, ledgers, private journals, books----a fascinating story.Published 5 months ago by Elizabeth L. May
Beautifully told story of incredible people in an amazing time in our history.Published 6 months ago by stacey mayfield
Story is interesting, but the book didn't "grab" me. I found it a bit tiresome, finally, but would add that i did learn from it.Published 7 months ago by H.F. Patterson
Enjoyed this! Well researched. Well written. Enjoyable read. Lots of information on Bronson Alcott (and Louisa May) was new to me. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Cricket
really interesting book...How their lives of Father and Daughter are so intertwined...They even die within hours of each other...Published 15 months ago by adie
Good quality book - quick service - I just don't like the book and probably won't finish reading it.Published 16 months ago by Grskynow
This book has been beautifully researched. I learned so much about the times, the culture, and about the Alcott family.Published 17 months ago by M. Morehead