Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Review: The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

If you've read Louisa May Alcott's Little Women, you likely identified with Jo the most. Jo is the most intriguing character, spunky and creative and devoted to family. Meg is too responsible. Beth is too good. And Amy is too spoiled and selfish. But what of the women who these characters were based on, Amy in particular? Was she really as bratty as she comes off as being much of the time in Little Women? Elise Hooper's novel, The Other Alcott, looks at May Alcott, the golden, youngest sister who was the model for Louisa's Amy but who was so much more than her sister's creation.

Opening with the celebration of the wonderful reviews on the publication of Little Women, May Alcott is depressed and humiliated to find that the critics, so positive about her sister's writing, are critical, in fact dismissive, of her illustrations for novel and she questions her art as a result. Eventually determining that her greatest wish is to be an artist of some acclaim despite the reviews, she vows to carry on, to search out instruction, and to be recognized for her own talent rather than being pigeonholed as Louisa's sister, or worse as the petulant and flighty Amy March. Her own drive to create is no less than her sister's. But the Alcott's circumstances, Louisa's role as sole financial support of the struggling family, and the fact that May is a woman often make it hard for her to pursue her own dreams. She does eventually find opportunities, both in Boston and in Europe to learn and create art even as she tries to temper her envy of her sister's fame and to overcome her reliance on Louisa's financial backing.

Hooper has drawn May not as Amy March but as a determined and ambitious artist who sometimes chafes at the responsibility thrust upon her in regards to her family. She and sister Louisa have a relationship that feels entirely human and realistic, alternately loving and contentious. May can be resentful and feel taken advantage of but her love for her family still shines through. It is clear that while May makes personal sacrifices to tend to her family when she is called upon to do so, she also never stops pushing forward for the thing that is her very lifeblood, painting and drawing. The novel is very much stripped of the romanticism of Little Women and feels very historically real, especially when dealing with poverty and opportunities for women. The depiction of the art scene in Europe and the way that the Academie Francaise dictated public acceptance of art and conferred success on the approved artists was very well done. And May's own journey, personally and artistically is quite an interesting one indeed but the biggest theme of the novel besides May's determination is her relationship with her sister Louisa and how two talented and smart women related to and saw each other, especially in a world that didn't value women's contributions nearly as much as they should have. Fans of Little Women will undoubtedly enjoy this look into the little sister and her own not insignificant accomplishments. For another fictional take on May Alcott, compare this to Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins as well.

For more information about Elise Hooper and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for sending me a copy of this book to review.

1 comment:

  1. I've always loved LITTLE WOMEN - the chance to learn more about these sisters is fantastic!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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