review: The Other Alcott

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The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper

Abigail “May” Alcott, sister of Louisa May Alcott, is followed in this fictional biography which takes place in the 1870’s in Boston, London and Paris. May, whom Louisa had fictionalized as “Amy” in her Little Women series, had received negative reviews of her illustrations included in the books, and as such set out to improve her skills by taking classes for lady artists. When the opportunity arose, she set off for Europe to take advantage of the superior learning environment and instructors.

Louisa continually called May home when she became exhausted with caring for their ailing mother. This rankled May, as she had finally begun making a living with her art and felt Louisa, who had the money for extra help, was jealous and holding her back. An emotional tug-o-war ensued throughout the narrative as the sisters each compared their lifestyles and accomplishments.

Those who know Alcott history can guess at the ending of this story. Conversely, those unfamiliar with the author and/or her works (like myself) will have no trouble enjoying this engrossing read. Themes explored are the roles of women in the changing art world of the era (Impressionism), the budding suffragist movement, and many aspects of family dynamics. The author relied on biographies, diaries, and letters, and is also from the area of Orchard House. I listened to the audio version, and found the narrator to be pleasant and engaging.

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