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The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott Hardcover – April 1, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult (April 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399156526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399156526
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,487,424 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

McNees lightly imagines the life of Louisa May Alcott, whose Little Women has enjoyed generations-long success. The story begins with a 20-year-old Louisa unhappily moving with her family from Boston to Walpole, N.H., where her Transcendentalist philosopher father pursues a life sans material pleasure. Louisa, meanwhile, plans on saving enough money to return to Boston and pursue a career as a writer. Then she meets the handsome and charming Joseph Singer, who stirs up strong emotions in Louisa. Not wanting to admit that she is attracted to him, Louisa responds to Joseph with defensiveness and anger until, of course, she can no longer deny her feelings and becomes torn between her desires and her dreams. While certainly charming, the simply told, straightforward narrative reads like YA fiction. It'll do the trick as a pleasant diversion for readers with fond memories of Alcott's work, but the lack of gravity prevents it from becoming anything greater. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

First-novelist McNees creates a previously unknown romantic affair for the author of Little Women. It took place, she imagines, in 1855 during the scantily documented summer the Alcotts spent in Walpole, New Hampshire. A handsome young merchant named Joseph Singer falls wildly in love with our Louisa, who is torn between reciprocal feelings for him and her passionate desire for personal independence and a career as a writer. The drama of the situation is compromised by a too-simplistic treatment of the characters and, of course, by the historical record, which shows that Alcott remained a self-styled spinster. Too, the infusion of issue-driven material involving women’s rights lends a somewhat didactic air to a work that is, after all, romantic fiction. To her credit, McNees does a good job of re-creating the nineteenth-century milieu, and her readers will doubtless be inspired to read more—about and by—Alcott. Little Women, anyone? --Michael Cart

More About the Author

Kelly O'Connor McNees is the author of two novels, "The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott" and "In Need of a Good Wife." Born and raised in Michigan, Kelly found that books made good friends. Mary Lennox, Winnie Foster, Kit Tyler, Will Stanton, and a dozen other characters were as real to her as any of the kids on her block, and she decided that the best way to keep them around and provide them with some company was to become a writer herself. Kelly received her first rejection letter in tenth grade, from the fiction editor at "Seventeen," and has been writing her way back ever since. In the meantime, she has worked as a teacher and editor, and lives with her husband and daughter in Chicago.

Customer Reviews

A thoroughly satisfying, highly enjoyable read.
Valerie J. Wood
I did however find that some parts of the story just didn't seem very believable, and other parts really not necessary.
N. Cousino
I love Louisa May Alcott, her books, her life story.
Bigdumptruck

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By pebbles VINE VOICE on March 17, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This novel was an easy read yet set an intriguing plot that allowed the reader to imagine what might have happened one summer in the life of Louisa May Alcott. The author set the stage for the 1800's time frame and gave the reader a feel for what life was like in the small town of Walpole, New Hampshire. It also gave true insight into the dynamics of the Alcott family, the access the girls had to education and the hardships they endured from their father's philosophy. The heart of the story was the on again, off again romance between Louisa May and Joseph Singer. The experience definitely could have been life changing for the two. The final chapter did catch the reader up and answered many questions that came to mind from reading the story. The use of book quotes at the start of each chapter was a nice touch and reminded the reader of many great works that they might want to read again. This book is a must read for any Louisa May Alcott fan.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Paul Grainger on April 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If one is prepared to accept the premiss that Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women is semi-autobiographical, and that Martha Saxton's biography of her is the definitive account, then Kelly O'Connor McNee's `The Lost Summer...' can be considered as the third part of a literary troika which gives a combined perspective of Louisa May's life and work.

Even setting such a notion aside, there is much to be gleaned from this novel, which is an imagination of events in Louisa May's life inspired by both Little Women and the biography.

The action takes place in the summer of 1855 when the family, on the insistence of father Alcott, who seems unable to settle in any particular place for long, lands in the New England town of Walpole. Louisa May, forever at odds with her father, would love to break away and seek her freedom and independence elsewhere - preferably in Boston - but out of loyalty to her mother and her sisters she stays in order to help them set up home.

She meets people, and one of them, a storeowner called Joseph Singer (a fictional character) brings love to her life. But Louisa May has a dream, a dream of becoming a writer, and so is presented with a dilemma: If she also settles in Walpole, marries Joseph and becomes a wife and mother, will she throw away a chance of fulfilling her dream?

Kelly O'Connor McNee has vividly evoked the nineteenth century period just before the American Civil War through her characterizations and her descriptions of real events that seamlessly blend with her fictional narrative. It is a quick and enjoyable read, with any loose ends nicely wrapped together in a satisfactory conclusion.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Burton Book Review on April 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Like so many other young readers, Louisa May Alcott was one of the first authors that I really connected with. For years after my first reading experience with Little Women, I counted Louisa May Alcott as my favorite author. I wrote countless book reports on her and beginning at age ten I read all of her major works from Little Women to Eight Cousins to Jack and Jill until I was about sixteen.

Within all of these works, there always seemed to be a slip of Louisa shining through, but I never really knew the author behind those words despite what facts I tried to glean from biographical sources. Those who enjoyed Little Women will enjoy this story of Louisa and her humble family as well, though this is told with more of the modern fashion of today and with a bit more of a depressive pall over the general story. The situation is very similar though, with the sisters' relationships and the era, which is depicted well in this new novel.

The poverty that Louisa's family faced was different then one would off-handedly assume. When one is thought of as being poor, we tend to think that the provider in the family is naturally doing everything in his power to achieve a better way of life for the family, yet perhaps circumstances have not been kind to them. That was not the case with the Alcotts. Louisa's father, Bronson, was a Transcendentalist, and did not believe in obtaining money for his speeches that he gave, and was against commercial gains. His family gave what they should have kept for themselves, as they were humble enough to realize that giving was better than receiving, even if they themselves did not have enough candles for the night or enough bread for the day.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Tina on May 15, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I am a big fan of Louisa May Alcott and even had the chance to visit her homestead in Concord - it, therefore, made reading this book all that much fun - trying to imagine her in this home, living this story, as told by Kelly O'Connor Mcnees. This is a "what if" novel - which intrigued me. What if Alcott had owned up to her true passion for that "special" man - the one she is truly rumored to have been in love with? Would she have died lonely and single as she did? after all she did for the various members of her family?

I think the author wrote this book, in part, to answer this question that I believe many Alcott fans have. The Lost Summer is a fun read because it gives us the "right" to go through her life and to find out more about the person, especially the "woman" side of her - which, let's face it, we have not really read or heard all that much about in the past.

I liked this book because it was a great way to escape and go back in time to another time, with an author that I really like. It was almost like "invading her privacy" and reading Alcott's own thoughts - I am always a big fan of books that answer the burning "what if" questions and this one certainly did.

So, why the 3 stars? This YA was a tad too simplistic for me - I was hoping for something with a little more bite and intensity - a little too vanilla at times.
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