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Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs

28 Feb

Invincible Louisa is a biographical story about Louisa May Alcott, author of the well know title Little Women. This story describes Louisa’s family life and experiences starting with her birth in Germantown, Pennsylvania. This story breathes life in to Louisa May Alcott’s past existence.  It chronicles the hardships she endured, the most notable one  being the death of Louisa’s sister, May Alcott. The story shows how Louisa harnessed her family life as inspiration for her writing. The book colorfully describes the plays Louisa would write and have her sisters perform. Prominent figures emerge throughout the telling of Louisa’s life such as Elizabeth Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne. This story also describes her special friendship with family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson who is thought to have been the primary person that encouraged  her to write. This story is a rich and  accurate account of Louisa May Alcott.  It is sure to be an enjoyable and interesting read for any fan of Louisa May Alcott or any person interested in her history.

Insight:

I have always been curious as to the person behind The Little Women books and I found this book satiated my curiosity for now. For anyone interested in Louisa May Alcott, this is a great starting point since it is a quick-read. It is a fictionalized account that uses major events from Louisa’s life to form a complex story. It demonstartes how Louisa, a timid child  grew-up to write one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

Suggested Library Activity:

When teaching the history of the Civil War, give students this book as a choice to read between others that put the war in context with people’s lives during this time. Have students identify the many viewpoints and opinions from people during this time. Have them create their own character from this period giving a brief paragraph with one citation. Include  illustrations portraying what life was like during this time in the United States.

Cover of Invincible Louisa written in 1934

Bibliographic Citation:

Meigs, C. (1968). Invincible Louisa: The story of the author of little women. Boston: Little, Brown.


Additional Book Review:

Cornelia Meigs wrote “Invincible Louisa” in 1933 and it really is a product of its times. I found the prose a little too childish for my tastes even though I usually really like children’s books. The atmosphere is very sunny even though Louisa May Alcott lived in poverty for much of her life. Anyone who enjoyed “Little Women” would like reading of the family who served as Alcott’s inspiration. The Alcott’s were a close-knit, loving family who enjoyed life to the fullest even though they didn’t live in the best of circumstances. Louisa’ father, Bronson, experimented with education techniques, many of which are still in use today, and transcendentalism. For a couple of years, the family lived in a sort of commune which failed in the end. Louisa associated with such exalted literary figures as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s obvious from reading this biography how much Jo is modeled after her creator and her efforts in trying to care for her family through her writing. There were several things I learned by reading this book:
1. The Alcott’s lived for two years in the Wayside, Hawthorne’s future home, before buying the Orchard house, where they lived for many years. Louisa hated this house because they were in the process of renovating it before moving in when her sister, Elizabeth, died.
2. Louisa served as an army nurse for one month before contracting typhoid fever which forced her to return home and from which she never fully recovered.
3. Louisa died at the age of 56 just two days after her father. She outlived her mother and father, two sisters and sister, Anna’s, husband.
4. When her youngest sister died a month after giving birth to Louisa’s namesake, Lulu was sent to be raised by her aunt. Louisa also adopted Anna’s youngest son so that he could inherit all the copyrights to her books.
Louisa May Alcott was a fascinating person and Meigs obviously admired her a great deal. Much of the content of the book was garnered from journals which added greatly to the details, but, since this is a small book, much had to have been left out. I would be interested in reading a more adult biography. Maybe David McCullough could tackle this.
Framed. (2007, July 30). Book Review of Invincible Louisa. Retrieved from http://framed2007bookreviews.blogspot.com/2007/11/invincible-louisa-by-cornelia-meigs.html

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