Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Revelation of Louisa May—Michaela MacColl



This was a lovely, quick read that I received via LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program. (I'm still a book behind in this free program, making my way through the biography of Nelson Rockefeller, but it's pretty dense, so it'll probably take me a while...) I initially requested The Revelation of Louisa May because I'm fascinated by this particular point in time and space, when so many of the great literary and philosophical thinkers were in one place: Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, Hawthorne. There are a couple of instances like this throughout history, and it always makes me profoundly jealous. And also curious about what people in the future might say about the thinkers of my generation, and their interactions.


I digress.

In this book, we get a snapshot of Louisa May Alcott's life when she is a teenager in Concord. Louisa's father, Bronson, refuses to work for money, so Louisa's mother ("Marmee") has just announced that she is going to work for a hotel that is 150 miles away in order to help financially support the family. This leaves Louisa alone to care for her father, her younger sister Beth, and herself. Even bigger than that, Marmee is leaving Louisa to care for the runaway slaves who move through their home as a stop on the Underground Railroad. A lot of responsibility for a sixteen year old. The story spans only a few days, but we see Louisa's view of the philosophical giants around her shift, her family threatened, a slave hunter menace to the community.

I generally enjoy what one might call "slice of life" narratives, that don't necessarily have particular suspense or purpose, but merely give you insight into a particular person's life. I would say that's what this book is, but it didn't quite grab me as I was hoping that it would. There are some great historical references; for example, all of the background, with Louisa's mother going to work for the family, and her father's personality, and the Underground Railroad connection. All of those snippets are true pieces of Alcott's life.

Perhaps it was the fabricated murder mystery—the completely fictional aspect—that turned me off.

Regardless, it was a quick and mostly entertaining read.

(This review is based on an uncorrected ARC obtained through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.)