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Louisa May Alcott: A Biography: With an Introduction to the New Edition

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Madeleine B. Stern, one of the world's leading Alcott scholars, shows how the breadth of Alcott's work, ranging from Little Women to sensational thrillers and war stories, serves as a reflection of a fascinating and complicated life dotted with poverty and riches alike, hard menial work, physical suffering relieved by opiates, and the acclaim of literary success.


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Madeleine B. Stern, one of the world's leading Alcott scholars, shows how the breadth of Alcott's work, ranging from Little Women to sensational thrillers and war stories, serves as a reflection of a fascinating and complicated life dotted with poverty and riches alike, hard menial work, physical suffering relieved by opiates, and the acclaim of literary success.

30 review for Louisa May Alcott: A Biography: With an Introduction to the New Edition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    An excellently detailed examination of Louisa's early writing for periodicals, the development of her writing style, and her progression as a professional writer. I've read many biographies, but this one gave me insights I'd never before considered. I want to read this one again!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diem

    I've had this on my shelves for a long time. I'm guessing I started it at some point and then gave up. Having finished it, I understand why. I've read a LOT of biographies so I feel like I have a good sense of which are good and which are not. This one is not. It is probably factually precise which you want a biography to be but you also want a bit of insight in the psychology of the subject which requires a certain amount of speculation. It's okay to do that as long as it is done skillfully and I've had this on my shelves for a long time. I'm guessing I started it at some point and then gave up. Having finished it, I understand why. I've read a LOT of biographies so I feel like I have a good sense of which are good and which are not. This one is not. It is probably factually precise which you want a biography to be but you also want a bit of insight in the psychology of the subject which requires a certain amount of speculation. It's okay to do that as long as it is done skillfully and transparently. It helps to have a lot of quotes from the subject's own writing which, if the subject was a writer, should be available. There are very few quotes from LMA included in this book in spite of the fact that she was a prolific author, letter writer and diarist. As an example of how the book reads overall, here's how it ends. LMA dies of something vaguely resembling a stroke or meningitis. The. End. No discussion of what her family does or of her legacy or how history remembers her. Nada. Just, her deathbed. No quotes from her obituaries which there certainly would have been given her celebrity. This was just so dry I can't believe it's considered the seminal work on LMA.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lady Jane

    This is a great biography if you want to get a feel for Alcott the person since Stern's approach is to try to create the feelings and experiences as Alcott lived them. If, however, as many people are, you are invested in knowing details like dates, this is not the biography for you. There are a few dates sprinkled though the book, but they are few and far between, leaving the reader wondering when particular events are taking place. The book does progress logically though Alcott's experiences, b This is a great biography if you want to get a feel for Alcott the person since Stern's approach is to try to create the feelings and experiences as Alcott lived them. If, however, as many people are, you are invested in knowing details like dates, this is not the biography for you. There are a few dates sprinkled though the book, but they are few and far between, leaving the reader wondering when particular events are taking place. The book does progress logically though Alcott's experiences, but a few more dates would be helpful pegs on which to hang the events of her life. This said, Stern does communicate who Alcott is and creates the feeling of living her life. Stern addresses Alcott's influences, but does not allow them to overwhelm the subject herself, who emerges as a very real woman, with all of her strengths and her flaws. A very readable biography of a very famous and influential woman.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Bobbie N

    The 1950 biography of Louisa May Alcott remains the most thorough and readable account of the life and work of the beloved American writer. 1996 edition 422 pages - 331; the rest is bibliography, notes, and index

  5. 5 out of 5

    Chandra Powers Wersch

    Great collection of primary sources by Alcott, and other transcendentalists and reformers. Well organized by topics: education, alternative medicine, suffrage, Brook Farms & Fruitland communal experiments, abolition, and more. Great collection of primary sources by Alcott, and other transcendentalists and reformers. Well organized by topics: education, alternative medicine, suffrage, Brook Farms & Fruitland communal experiments, abolition, and more.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Grace

    The best part of this biography is that it’s over.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Hickman Walker

    Louisa May Alcott really was an amazing woman. I knew her only from the four books about the March family (given that a fair majority of South African books are obtained from British publishers/printers we have Good Wives, rather than two parts of Little Women). I knew that she'd written some other books, but I'd never read any and hadn't much interest in them. I had some vague knowledge that she'd been a nurse in the civil war and that Little Women was semi-autobiographical. I wanted to go to O Louisa May Alcott really was an amazing woman. I knew her only from the four books about the March family (given that a fair majority of South African books are obtained from British publishers/printers we have Good Wives, rather than two parts of Little Women). I knew that she'd written some other books, but I'd never read any and hadn't much interest in them. I had some vague knowledge that she'd been a nurse in the civil war and that Little Women was semi-autobiographical. I wanted to go to Orchard House because it was mentioned in the adaptation I have of Little Women (the Winona Ryder version). So, when my partner and I were in Boston, we hopped up to Concord (Massachusetts, not the one in New Hampshire or whatever it is further to the north) and visited Orchard House. There I learnt more about her writing, the importance of her father and the society in which they lived. I was more than ready to read her biography - this apparently being one of the best biographies of Louisa May Alcott ever written. It is well written without appearing at all like a biography in any way. It's written more like a historical novel, though one knows that all the events and facts that are dramatised on the page are actual events written about in the family journal and letters. This is a highly recommended read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Cindy Dyson Eitelman

    Louisa May Alcott: From Blood & Thunder to Hearth and Home by Madeleine B. Stern Collection of Madeleine Stern's essays and lots of Alcott's letters, written from 1943 to 1995. The story of the fascinating discover of Alcott's A.M. Barnard pseudonym is here, along with a more sympathetic view of how she came to be known as "The Children's Friend" author. The biography of Alcott that I read gave me the mistaken view that after many frustrations making a living as a serious writer, she came to write Louisa May Alcott: From Blood & Thunder to Hearth and Home by Madeleine B. Stern Collection of Madeleine Stern's essays and lots of Alcott's letters, written from 1943 to 1995. The story of the fascinating discover of Alcott's A.M. Barnard pseudonym is here, along with a more sympathetic view of how she came to be known as "The Children's Friend" author. The biography of Alcott that I read gave me the mistaken view that after many frustrations making a living as a serious writer, she came to write a Girls' book as an unwilling favor to a publisher. Not true at all. The only essay I didn't enjoy wholeheartedly was the one where she attempted to link certain episodes in Alcott's career to passages in her children's books. Her acting episodes in the early years, yes--almost every book had an amateur play or wannabe actress. But I don't think it's fair to imply that direct quotes from her books had a direct parallel in her own life.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I was inspired to read this biography when I visited Alcott's home in Concord, Mass over the Christmas break. I didn't know much about her life so it's been quite enjoyable. The narrative style makes it seem like a novel instead of a biography, so that took a little getting used to. I'm enjoying the book so far, especially seeing the parallels between Lousia's life & that of Jo March in "Little Women" (which is in my top 5 of all time!). I would recommend it to others who enjoy Louisa May Alcott I was inspired to read this biography when I visited Alcott's home in Concord, Mass over the Christmas break. I didn't know much about her life so it's been quite enjoyable. The narrative style makes it seem like a novel instead of a biography, so that took a little getting used to. I'm enjoying the book so far, especially seeing the parallels between Lousia's life & that of Jo March in "Little Women" (which is in my top 5 of all time!). I would recommend it to others who enjoy Louisa May Alcott's work.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Carol Van Der Woude

    The biography of Louisa May Alcott** by Madeleine B. Stern chronicles the hard lessons of life that fed Louisa’s imagination. Her writing career began with a desire to support her family—her mother and her sisters. Along the way she taught school, volunteered to provide nursing care for soldiers during the Civil War, and traveled to Europe as the maid/companion of an invalid. As I read through this book I was able to picture the scenes and events that Miss Alcott drew on to write stories and her The biography of Louisa May Alcott** by Madeleine B. Stern chronicles the hard lessons of life that fed Louisa’s imagination. Her writing career began with a desire to support her family—her mother and her sisters. Along the way she taught school, volunteered to provide nursing care for soldiers during the Civil War, and traveled to Europe as the maid/companion of an invalid. As I read through this book I was able to picture the scenes and events that Miss Alcott drew on to write stories and her books. The biographer does a good job of bringing the 1800s to life.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    Although Stern's prose is more like a stream-of-consciousness novel than a biography (which takes quite a while to get used to) and although she assumes the reader has extensive knowledge of the mid-19th century and Concord's various literary lions, I enjoyed this book very much. The real Louisa Alcott captures your affections as easily as Jo March does, and you can't help but admire her determination to support her unusual family and to make a name for herself in a man's world.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Exhaustively researched and scrupulously devoted to its subject, but at times the circumscribed adherence to reporting only what can be verified in the historical record makes it difficult to get a sense of Alcott as a full person.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Scottishtanningsecrets

    Read this for class and really liked it. Was happy to find out that Alcott had a dark side.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Wanda Moorhead

    One of my favorite from my late teen years!

  15. 4 out of 5

    The Library Lady

    THE Alcott biography to read.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

  17. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

  18. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  19. 4 out of 5

    Savanna Scoggins

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lolobull

  21. 5 out of 5

    Praj

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mellanee

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sheila

  25. 5 out of 5

    Booklover1951

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marion

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gloria McKeague

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bethany Michelle Planton

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chandrahvj

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

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