What I've Read This Week . . .
Becoming Little Women: A novel about Louisa May Alcott at Fruitlands by Jeannine Atkins -- Middle Grades Historical Fiction
When the author of Little Women was ten years old, her family moved to a farm with other Transcendalists. They called this farm Fruitlands and vowed not to use beasts of burden, wear cotton or leather, eat sugar or honey or drink milk do anything that would deprive animals of their natural state or support the slave system. This also included not using any money. Louisa is excited at first about a new adventure but apprehensive about what life will be like away from Boston. Louisa's older sister Anna, the perfect and good one, accepts their fate patiently while sweet Lizzie and baby Abby are a bit too young to understand what is happening. . Louisa's patient mother deals with all the household chores with some assistance from the girls. Louisa finds it difficult to keep her temper and finds solace writing in her journal and composing stories in her favorite apple tree. By midwinter though, the adventure is no longer so much fun. Lizzie, Abby and William are sick and and Mother is thinking of taking the children and leaving. Louisa worries a lot about her father and wants nothing more than to keep her family together. Louisa vows that one day her family will be rich. For now though they must muddle through as best they can. Can they stay together and still be different from the rest of the world? This is a very simple introduction to a difficult period in Louisa May Alcott's early life. The story draws from Louisa's journals and family letters to provide a portrait of what life was like at Fruitlands. The character of Louisa seems pretty true to life. Anna, like Meg, is portrayed as a good two-shoes. She reminds me a lot of Mary Ingalls, especially in her relationship with Louisa. There are some quirky characters who live at Fruitlands who provide the laughs to relieve the tension. The author did a great job of explaining what the Transcendentalists believed and the purpose of their experiment. I already knew the story so the plot didn't really grab me. It's similar to Fruitlands: Louisa May Alcott Made Perfect by Gloria Whelan and Little Women Next Door by Sheila Solomon Klass. It's been a long time since I read the other two but from my memories of them, I liked Klass's book the best but Atkins does the best job of explaining everything so I would recommend starting with this one and then reading Whelan's book and then Klass's. Adult readers will probably just want to read Transcendental Wild Oats or Louisa's journal entries.
Little Women Letters From the House of Alcott: Selected by Jessie Bonstelle and Marian De Forest by Jesse Bonstelle -- Non-Fiction
This book was originally compiled in 1914 as a response to the popularity of the Little Women play. It includes letters and journal entries written by the Alcotts with explanation by the editor. The story of the Alcotts is not told in chronological order but by theme. It talks about Bronson Alcott's childhood and his drive to become better educated and his desire to be understood. The book includes a letter from the patient, saintly Abigail May Alcott defending her husband's unusual beliefs to her brother. There are sweet letters written from the Alcott parents to their daughters on their birthdays and touching tributes to beloved parents from Louisa. II have read some of the journal entries before but not all of the letters. I especially liked the photographs of the original handwritten letters. gather that this book was the first compilation of these private papers. Since then there have been numerous biographies and scholarly works on the Alcotts. This book would be best appreciated by older children, teens and newcomers to the world of the Alcotts.