Louisa May Alcott
The Woman Behind Little Women
By Harriet Reisen
(Henry Holt and Co., Hardcover, 9780805082999, 384pp.)
Publication Date: October 27, 2009
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A vivid, energetic account of the life of Louisa May Alcott, whose work has delighted millions of readers
"Louisa May Alcott" portrays a writer as worthy of interest in her own right as her most famous character, Jo March, and addresses all aspects of Alcott's life: the effect of her father's self-indulgent utopian schemes; her family's chronic economic difficulties and frequent uprootings; her experience as a nurse in the Civil War; the loss of her health and frequent recourse to opiates in search of relief from migraines, insomnia, and symptomatic pain. Stories and details culled from Alcott's journals; her equally rich letters to family, friends, publishers, and admiring readers; and the correspondence, journals, and recollections of her family, friends, and famous contemporaries provide the basis for this lively account of the author's classic rags-to-riches tale.
Alcott would become the equivalent of a multimillionaire in her lifetime based on the astounding sales of her books, leaving contemporaries like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Henry James in the dust. This biography explores Alcott's life in the context of her works, all of which are to some extent autobiographical. A fresh, modern take on this remarkable and prolific writer, who secretly authored pulp fiction, harbored radical abolitionist views, and completed heroic service as a Civil War nurse, "Louisa May Alcott" is in the end also the story of how the all-time beloved American classic "Little Women" came to be. This revelatory portrait will present the popular author as she was and as she has never been seen before.
Harriet Reisen’s interest in Louisa May Alcott dates to her marathon reading of Alcott’s eight children’s novels during a rainy spell one childhood summer. Over the past twenty years, what began as an idea for a film biography of Alcott developed into a passion for the subject herself. A former fellow in screenwriting at the American Film Institute, Reisen has written dramatic and historical documentary scripts for PBS and HBO, and radio commentary for Morning Edition and Marketplace. She lives in Massachusetts.
For many readers, Louisa May Alcott is synonymous with her most famous character, Jo March, the spirited sister in Little Women. But author and filmmaker Harriet Reisen says Alcott's life "was no children's book." Reisen's The Woman Behind 'Little Women' premieres Monday night on PBS. More at NPR.org
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