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Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women

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Biography tracing the fascinating life of Louisa May Alcott from her happy childhood in Pennsylvania and Boston to her success as a writer of such classics as Little women.


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Biography tracing the fascinating life of Louisa May Alcott from her happy childhood in Pennsylvania and Boston to her success as a writer of such classics as Little women.

30 review for Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women

  1. 4 out of 5

    Teresa

    My recent reread of Little Women prompted my rereading of this tiny book that's survived who-knows-how-many cullings of shelves though the years. My edition is from 1972, shortly after the time I'm guessing I'd first read Little Women, and this story of its author probably meant as much to me then as Alcott's novel itself did. If you think Jo was brave, painfully shy, adventurous, imaginative and indefatigable, wait till you meet Louisa. The author of this little biography, first published in 193 My recent reread of Little Women prompted my rereading of this tiny book that's survived who-knows-how-many cullings of shelves though the years. My edition is from 1972, shortly after the time I'm guessing I'd first read Little Women, and this story of its author probably meant as much to me then as Alcott's novel itself did. If you think Jo was brave, painfully shy, adventurous, imaginative and indefatigable, wait till you meet Louisa. The author of this little biography, first published in 1933, only 45 years after Alcott's death, can sometimes say "it was told to me" [by those who knew someone who knew Alcott, as in the case of Alcott's older sister's daughter-in-law] and Meigs does write with the immediacy of someone sitting down to tell you a story that was told to her, along with a bit of 'rambling' that might cause the timeline of the family's frequent house-moving to seem confusing. My adult-self occasionally wanted some dates (or at least ages) as I read along; but at the end the author explains why she didn't provide these until the chronology. During my first read, the exposure in this biography to then-unfamiliar words and concepts, such as abolitionist and transcendentalism, could've been only a good thing; and certainly in high school when it came time to read Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne, I was able to greet them, years after encountering them within these pages, as the Alcott family friends that they were.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Manybooks

    As much as I have always loved (if not even with all my both childhood and adult heart adored) especially Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (and its sequels) and as much as I also do consider her family (and her rather extraordinary and unconventional life) both interesting and intriguing (as well as much worthy of extensive academic study), this 1933 (and thus early) children's biography by Cornelia Meigs (which I do realise won the 1934 Newbery Medal) leaves me for the most part both emotionall As much as I have always loved (if not even with all my both childhood and adult heart adored) especially Louisa May Alcott's Little Women (and its sequels) and as much as I also do consider her family (and her rather extraordinary and unconventional life) both interesting and intriguing (as well as much worthy of extensive academic study), this 1933 (and thus early) children's biography by Cornelia Meigs (which I do realise won the 1934 Newbery Medal) leaves me for the most part both emotionally and coldly unsatisfied and even rather majorly annoyed (and so frustrated I might add that I have actually tried to read Invincible Louisa at least three times unsuccessfully, and have only now managed a complete perusal because a friend wanted to discuss and analyse the book online with me). I guess that first and foremost, it is the author's, it is Cornelia Meigs' declamatory and often almost prayerful narrative style that I simply cannot stomach, as it tends to permeate rather strongly throughout Invincible Louisa and to both distance and distract potential readers from the content, from the presented themes, from the featured characters. However, and that all being said, I guess I should perhaps also be a bit more limiting and specific with this critical assessment and point out that feeling rather (no actually quite) distanced and distracted was and remains more the case for me, personally, and that other perusers might well not have encountered this same impression (but be that as it may, in Invincible Louisa, I certainly and most definitely NEVER felt even remotely connected and close to the Alcotts, to their friends, even to the historical period presented and thus rather quickly lost interest, skimming and skipping much of the book simply because I was desperate to be done and to read something else, almost anything else). And considering how much I have always loved Lousia May Alcott as an author, yes, my personal disappointment has certainly made me rather more curmudgeonly with regard to my rating (giving but two stars and actually originally even considering a one star rating). Another (perhaps more minor but still everpresent) feature of my frustration with Invincible Louisa is the uncomfortable fact and truth that Cornelia Meigs presents a rather overly rosy and glowing description and assessment of the Alcott family patriarch, of Bronson Alcott (who was in many ways rather a failure at least with regard to his role as father and husband). Now granted, Invincible Louisa was penned at a time when much of the less than stellar qualities of Bronson Alcott's character were as yet unknown (and if the writing style, the narrative of Invincible Louisa had been more readable and less mundanely tedious, I would likely have been able to partially ignore how Bronson Alcott was in many ways placed on an often undeserving and positive pedestal). But I cannot and will not deny that the author's almost hero-worship of Bronson Alcott, of the entire Alcott family certainly did and does chafe and definitely has influenced and continues to influence my rather negative general attitude towards Invincible Louisa. And thus, I cannot and will not recommend this book without major reservations (especially since there are many better, more modern and above all, more balanced biographical accounts of Louisa May Allcott and her family now available). Two stars, and yes indeed, I also refuse to feel guilty (even considering that Invincible Louisa won an award and is obviously beloved by many)!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Tarissa

    1934 Newbery Medal winner. I'm a big fan of Louisa May Alcott and her writings, her most notable novel being Little Women, among many other great books and stories. Needless to say, I've wanted to read this particular biography on Miss Alcott for many years, and finally got to read it this summer. I think by reading this book and learning more about the Alcott family's history, you're diving deeper into Little Women at the same time. You get to learn more about the characters of Amy, Jo, Meg, and 1934 Newbery Medal winner. I'm a big fan of Louisa May Alcott and her writings, her most notable novel being Little Women, among many other great books and stories. Needless to say, I've wanted to read this particular biography on Miss Alcott for many years, and finally got to read it this summer. I think by reading this book and learning more about the Alcott family's history, you're diving deeper into Little Women at the same time. You get to learn more about the characters of Amy, Jo, Meg, and Beth, and find out what they truly were like in real life. Most importantly I found out a lot more about Miss Jo March herself, Louisa May Alcott. I'm starting to pick up now on hints of true events from her life inside of her writings. I feel more well-informed on the Alcotts as I continue to make my way through more of Louisa's books. Louisa was always running off for a new adventure; this is true both in childhood and adulthood, in different ways. She was up for something fresh and thrilling to the senses, and was courageous to the core; this is one of the big elements I picked up on by reading her biography. Plus the reader gets to see insight in other topics that greatly affected Louisa: death, slavery, transcendentalism, education, Quaker culture, poverty. Life wasn't always peachy for her, as she had troubles all her own – but enough sweetness to keep her well-rounded. Just like in her writings. Cons? This isn't really a negative point, but my opinion in one area differs from Cornelia Meigs' version. I think the author had a different perspective on Bronson Alcott than what we have of him today, if one reads up on the subject. In this book, Meigs glowingly builds up his character and reputation, which somehow seems skewed from what history tells us. Of course, he was a dreamer, and he attempted to do many different things in his life, but I personally don't think it was as glamorous as this book portrays. One of the reasons this biography is particularly interesting to me is that it's not a modern day researcher who wrote it. It was written back in the 1930's, and clearly is written in a vintage style (which I completely adored, seeing as I am an avid vintage book reader). Additionally, I felt like the biographer truly knew Louisa as a friend, not just how a researcher or journalist might see her. I liked the effect that the amiable writing style gave to the atmosphere of the biography, and it made it much more amusing to read than a dry, textbook biography.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Momma

    Written in 1933 the language is beautiful. I am amazed, however, at the positive and glowing description of LMA’s father. Her father is well known to have been a dreamer, a never-do-well, woefully inadequate as a bread-winner for the family. The family was in constant finical distress till LMA herself began her publishing career; the strains due solely to her father’s wandering and placement of vague ideals above solid employment to support his wife and 4 children. The hard life and the constant Written in 1933 the language is beautiful. I am amazed, however, at the positive and glowing description of LMA’s father. Her father is well known to have been a dreamer, a never-do-well, woefully inadequate as a bread-winner for the family. The family was in constant finical distress till LMA herself began her publishing career; the strains due solely to her father’s wandering and placement of vague ideals above solid employment to support his wife and 4 children. The hard life and the constant fear and emotional turmoil Abba (LAM’s mother) held that family together though is heart-breaking. Honestly the author might have been better off writing a study of Bronson Alcott (LMA’s father) than of Louisa May herself; since mush of the text is devoted to his various schools and odd ambitions. Page 98 is the first mention of her publishing any writing and Little women, while certainly not her only noteworthy effort (not even my favorite) is not mentioned till page 200, a mere 41 pages before the end of the book. On page 184 there is discussion Louisa having a ‘close male friend’ this is AFTER the Civil war, and LMA was born in 1832, so she was in her 30’s or 40’s by this time. The author, then, speaks of the fact that LMA made veiled reference to lovers or admirers though out her life, but paid them to heed, so history should not attend to them either. The author claims the earliest reference LMA herself makes to a lover is when she vas 15, I question the definition of lover a 15 year old female for a good family in the about 1845 would really have had, none the less I find it odd the biography author merely looks back on this in passing while discussion her later life. Again this books doesn’t seem to be about LMA as much as it is about her father and the experience of the family (moving something like 25 times in 26 years) following him. I did learn a few new facts. For example while I knew the Alcott family was near and dear to Emerson I have no idea they also know, much less how well, the Hawthorns. It is interesting; to look back, at the now famous people that readily exchanges addresses before any of them were a person of mention. I also did not know she has nursed in the Civil war (inWashingtonDC) so that she had come so near to death as a result. Overall, not that great a read. I finished it on one hand because I am obsessive like that and rarely do NOT finish a book and secondly just almost with a morbid curiosity to see if the author ever really talked about LMA or is all of the book focused on glowing coverage of her never-do-well father. Clearly LMA served only as a window though which to discuss her father and his theories and the tribulations he put the family though; though the author presents them all as joyous varied experiences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    This is a short biography of the life of Louisa May Alcott. The book begins with an introduction to her parents and their life growing up until they meet and marry. It then covers the span of Alcott's life and her work as a nurse, teacher and writer. The reader gets to know all of the real life people behind the beloved characters of Little Women and what inspired Alcott to write the book. This is not a riveting book but for those who loved any of Alcott's books growing up will enjoy getting to This is a short biography of the life of Louisa May Alcott. The book begins with an introduction to her parents and their life growing up until they meet and marry. It then covers the span of Alcott's life and her work as a nurse, teacher and writer. The reader gets to know all of the real life people behind the beloved characters of Little Women and what inspired Alcott to write the book. This is not a riveting book but for those who loved any of Alcott's books growing up will enjoy getting to know the writer who was the real Jo March. I am one of those fans and was thoroughly entertained. It has inspired me to re-read the Little Women and her other works.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    I am thankful that I read Little Women before reading this biography. So much of Alcott's personal life went into her novel. And so much of the resonance of this biography depends on familiarity with her work. This is not a balanced and academic study of the life of a young author and her influences; this is a hagiography. While often described as "invincible" and "determined," Alcott's jobs were all very short-lived, similar to her father, who Meigs also paints in an overly flattering light. Th I am thankful that I read Little Women before reading this biography. So much of Alcott's personal life went into her novel. And so much of the resonance of this biography depends on familiarity with her work. This is not a balanced and academic study of the life of a young author and her influences; this is a hagiography. While often described as "invincible" and "determined," Alcott's jobs were all very short-lived, similar to her father, who Meigs also paints in an overly flattering light. They were both idealistic dreamers who were not willing to compromise their ideas for something as base as steady income. Growing up surrounded by Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorne, it is little surprise that Alcott was able to channel this privilege into a profitable writing career. While flawed as a biography, this book is quite readable and pleasant. Fans of Little Women are likely to enjoy this peak behind the pages. And they are likely to forgive the florid writing style.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Josiah

    This is one of the greatest biographical stories that I have ever read. It is exceptionally heartfelt and wise and touching for any fictional narrative, but for a TRUE story it simply blows almost all others right out of the proverbial water. Cornelia Meigs has a brilliantly sweet touch that infuses her writing with warm energy, flowing unmistakably through every paragraph and sentence and word. I found myself on the verge of tears at several points, but what really resonated with me deepest of This is one of the greatest biographical stories that I have ever read. It is exceptionally heartfelt and wise and touching for any fictional narrative, but for a TRUE story it simply blows almost all others right out of the proverbial water. Cornelia Meigs has a brilliantly sweet touch that infuses her writing with warm energy, flowing unmistakably through every paragraph and sentence and word. I found myself on the verge of tears at several points, but what really resonated with me deepest of all is the story of the injured boy, when Louisa May Alcott is working as a nurse during the Civil War. His dream of Kit's reemergence (and I won't give away any more of what this means than that) struck me like a bolt of lightning, and stays with me emotionally to this day, and will forever after. Cornelia Meigs has crafted the story to read more like a fictional account than a regular biography, and in my view she has done this with with awesome, breathtaking mastery. Invincible Louisa is a fine piece of literature, ranking up there at or near the top with the best biographies I have ever read, and near the top with the best books of any type that I have ever read. This is an outstanding work.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Zoe's Human

    I wish I had read this when I was younger. It's a bit sanitized for my adult mind. Nevertheless, as a long-time fan of Little Women and an admirer of Louisa May Alcott, it was a pleasure to read. I enjoyed seeing which parts of one of my favorite books stemmed from real life. I also learned some interesting facts about Ms. Alcott which only served to increase my admiration. If you have a lover of Little Women in your home, this would be a great book for them. Especially if you're trying to encour I wish I had read this when I was younger. It's a bit sanitized for my adult mind. Nevertheless, as a long-time fan of Little Women and an admirer of Louisa May Alcott, it was a pleasure to read. I enjoyed seeing which parts of one of my favorite books stemmed from real life. I also learned some interesting facts about Ms. Alcott which only served to increase my admiration. If you have a lover of Little Women in your home, this would be a great book for them. Especially if you're trying to encourage a little reader to branch out into non-fiction.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I loved this book. I learned so much about her. I now want to reread all of her books. So much of what she wrote was from her life. I want to find those connections. Just loved it.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Decent for a biography, some good descriptions. Otherwise unremarkable. I think I would have enjoyed reading Little Women instead. "It was a time of great happiness, peace and security, those first two years of the Alcotts' married life. Happiness was to continue, sometimes interrupted in strange ways; but peace and security were not to come again for a very long time." "...here, most of all, were the unruffled peace and the genuine happiness of living, of a household devoted and gay, high-spirite Decent for a biography, some good descriptions. Otherwise unremarkable. I think I would have enjoyed reading Little Women instead. "It was a time of great happiness, peace and security, those first two years of the Alcotts' married life. Happiness was to continue, sometimes interrupted in strange ways; but peace and security were not to come again for a very long time." "...here, most of all, were the unruffled peace and the genuine happiness of living, of a household devoted and gay, high-spirited and happy, even in the face of sorrow." "...her mother's heart had been wrung with pain over the baby brother who came and went away again." "Only long after, when her daughter saw some of her mother's letters and read in her journal the despairing cry of bitter grief, did Louisa have any real knowledge of what her mother had suffered over the little boy who was lost, and of whom the girls were taught to speak as though they had really had and known their brother." "Much of the time, the older three were taken care of by their father when their mother was busy, or when, as she frankly admitted, she was too tired to be wise or patient with them." "He said a very little, in brief explanation, to make Louisa see that she had done wrong in taking things without permission, and then he held her on his knee while she leaned her face against his shoulder and broke into a storm of weeping. He did not make stupid attempts to comfort her, but let her cry her fill until, in sheer exhaustion, she went to sleep. She awake an hour afterward, frightened for an instant to find herself in the twilight of the big garret, then reassured to discover that she was still upon his knee, within the circle of his comforting arm." "So surrounded were they by love and watchfulness that the discomforts and privations which crept more and more into their days did not seem to matter. What did matter was that these two beloved ones, who were their whole world were growing day by day more sorrowful and desperate." "There is no better way to learn how to understand the minds of children than to teach them. Louisa gave generously and taught well, but she could not learn to like her work. She was too restless and impetuous; she was too prone to find the long hours of sitting still as trying as did even the smallest of her pupils. Determination, however, can take the place of patience, if earnestly applied." "It was Abba Alcott's habit to look into the diaries, which were always open to her, and to write brief letters to her children amongst the pages of uncertain writing. "I have observed all day your patience with baby, your obedience to me, your kindness to all." After one of Louisa's tempests of furious temper, which broke out from time to time when she was small, was this comment: "I was grieved at your selfish behaviour this morning, but also greatly pleased to find you bore so meekly Father's reproof of it. I know that you will have a happy day after the storm; keep quiet, read, walk, but do not talk much till all is peace again." "It was March when Elizabeth went away. Louisa saw her go with the strange, numb calmness that attends an agonizing grief when it cannot be averted. Elizabeth was glad to be at rest; no one could begrudge her the freedom from suffering which she had finally won, when "on the same breast where she had drawn her first breath, she quietly drew her last." An inconspicuous, beautiful, unselfish life, coming to an almost imperceptible close." "Life goes on after sorrow, in spite of sorrow, as a defense against sorrow." ""I am glad to have known so good a man," she wrote of him. Behind that simple statement is all her gratitude for the cheerful welcomes when she was lonely and homesick, for counsel and encouragement in the midst of a great man's busy days, for the fortitude which he put into her heart, to remain there forever." "There is no experience in the world that can ever match that of seeing soldiers go away, of seeing the gaiety and the excitement and of knowing the black and hopeless tragedy which is behind it all. There is little that is so terrible as seeing strong, wholesome young men, every one of them beautiful in the flush of their high patriotism, as watching them go and knowing that they are surely to die." "Louisa leaned back in her chair to rest a minute and draw her breath, for it had taken all her strength and spirit to help the desolate little boy. How tired she was and how long the night! But she could be still for a little now, she thought, and gather courage again." "Theodore Parker had been dead nearly three years, but she knew, still, every word he had ever said to help her in her own need. He had given her courage to face some hard things; she could face this." "Like all people when they are ill, she had been thinking only of the difficult present and not of the future. Now, as she began to feel something like real strength again, she fell to wondering what was before her. She had thought of herself as such a failure, but perhaps, after all, there were still worlds for her to conquer." "Only one party of guests stood out against her, a Southern colonel and his family, who regarded her across the room with the bitter enmity which is the aftermath of war. Louisa smiled over their haughty hostility and cheerfully went her own way." "Once these two reached an age sufficient for understanding each other, the little-girl quarrels ceased forever." "Abba Alcott was slowly slipping into the rest and peace which were to be greater even than any Louisa could give. She was cheerful and free from suffering through weeks and months of failing. Bronson had come home and Louisa's arms were close about her when she finally went away. How strange it was to be in that household and know that the strong spirit which had ruled it so long was absent." "She was royally welcomed and carried home, and many times, at night, Louisa would go into her room, to look at her in her small bed, to make sure that she was really there." "One of the ways in which children are a comfort is their ability to keep everyone occupied and absorbed in them."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Falina

    I had a little trouble getting into this book, but by the time Louisa leaves home I was fully immersed. I think the writing style feels similar to Little Women, though it's been at least a decade since my last reading. I wish I could be as generous in my view of Louisa's father as Meigs is -- he seems like a ninny who did nothing but cause his family trouble with his impractical ideas, and got nothing but love and support in return. Some of the articles I read online suggest Louisa was not as to I had a little trouble getting into this book, but by the time Louisa leaves home I was fully immersed. I think the writing style feels similar to Little Women, though it's been at least a decade since my last reading. I wish I could be as generous in my view of Louisa's father as Meigs is -- he seems like a ninny who did nothing but cause his family trouble with his impractical ideas, and got nothing but love and support in return. Some of the articles I read online suggest Louisa was not as totally emotionally supportive as Meigs indicates, which makes sense to me -- when your family is starving and your father is not only not helping support you, but actively giving your resources away, it can't breed a lot of respect for him. I think there is a definite reason he isn't in her books. While I enjoyed this book, I wish it was less fictionalized. After all, we already had Little Women if we wanted an abridged and wholesome account of Alcott's life.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Phil Jensen

    It's not that bad! Why this book is underrated: 1. Sentence quality. I love Meigs' Dickensian sentence structure. It perfectly fit the subject of the book. Example: "Not all of [the road's] roughness and its wet, however, could interfere with the joyful stride of a triumphant young father who tramped the difficult mile, on a cold November day, from his house to the big dwelling at Wyck, home of his dearest friends." (Ch. 1) 2. Insight into Little Women. As Meigs tells the story, you get to find ou It's not that bad! Why this book is underrated: 1. Sentence quality. I love Meigs' Dickensian sentence structure. It perfectly fit the subject of the book. Example: "Not all of [the road's] roughness and its wet, however, could interfere with the joyful stride of a triumphant young father who tramped the difficult mile, on a cold November day, from his house to the big dwelling at Wyck, home of his dearest friends." (Ch. 1) 2. Insight into Little Women. As Meigs tells the story, you get to find out all the biographical events that Alcott fictionalized in Little Women. 3. Dazzling feats of empathy! Bronson Alcott comes in for a lot of criticism. Here is a man who frequently put his personal theories and social experiments ahead of his family's welfare. His wife and children paid the price for his miscalculations time and again. However, Meigs tries as hard as she can to spin him as a sympathetic character without hiding his many failures from the reader. Great effort! 4. It's mostly not boring. The family background part in the opening chapters is interesting, if you're into family histories. The parts on Louisa Alcott's teen years and young adulthood drag a bit, then the parts on her writing career are fascinating. So it ends on a high note. None of her major writings are overlooked. Cornelia Meigs maybe slowed down a bit in the middle, but she came through with what I was looking for by the end.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kailey (BooksforMKs)

    Reading the real-life story of Louisa May Alcott was like reading about Little Women in a parallel universe. Most of the story of Little Women reflects the Alcott's real life, even down to the weekly pillow fights between four rambunctious girls! The writing style is simple and charming, telling of everyday doings and the little adventures of a quiet life. Throughout the book is the one thread of the story arc, that Louisa wanted to write to make money to take care of her family. Her only real a Reading the real-life story of Louisa May Alcott was like reading about Little Women in a parallel universe. Most of the story of Little Women reflects the Alcott's real life, even down to the weekly pillow fights between four rambunctious girls! The writing style is simple and charming, telling of everyday doings and the little adventures of a quiet life. Throughout the book is the one thread of the story arc, that Louisa wanted to write to make money to take care of her family. Her only real ambition was to see her family comfortable and financially easy. This main theme really pulls together all the story. Louisa worked for one month as a nurse near Washington during the Civil War. She got typhoid and had to leave her nursing duties. She got her writing career started by publishing her letters to family during that time, which told all about the conditions in the hospital and the pathetic bravery of the wounded soldiers. She loved to travel, and put many of the people she met into her books. She was close friends with Emerson and Hawthorne. Louisa never married. She legally adopted two of her nieces and nephews, who inherited her book copyrights. She was a strong advocate for women's rights, but did not live to vote. She died of a fever at 56. I loved reading about Louisa's fierce spirit and determination! She is exactly like Jo March, and no wonder that fictional character is so beloved just as the real Louisa was loved during her life.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    What a delightful old edition, 1933, a biography of Louisa Alcott! I read this and other Cornelia Meigs bios when I was in junior high school during the Little House on the Prairie Day :)! My bookie friend, Tricia Douglas, reviewed this book favorably so I requested it from our Library, and low and behold - they had a copy with the old fashioned card envelope on the inside cover. What a delightful "read" about this aptly described invincible and I might add independent woman! She repeated severa What a delightful old edition, 1933, a biography of Louisa Alcott! I read this and other Cornelia Meigs bios when I was in junior high school during the Little House on the Prairie Day :)! My bookie friend, Tricia Douglas, reviewed this book favorably so I requested it from our Library, and low and behold - they had a copy with the old fashioned card envelope on the inside cover. What a delightful "read" about this aptly described invincible and I might add independent woman! She repeated several times in her life, "God help us all and keep us for one another", and that is exactly what she did - kept her family together and supported throughout her life doing what ever it took to do so! Absolutely LOVED rereading this timeless biography!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Stimpson

    On my first visit to the middle school library in 6th grade, I checked out "Little Women." The librarian, looked at me skeptically over her tiny, librarian glasses and said, "I think this might be a little too hard for you." "You don't know me," I thought, but did not say. I was painfully shy, but super sassy in my head. When Louisa May Alcott's father gave one of her stories to a friend of his in publishing, the man said, "'Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching,' the gentleman said kindly. 'She is On my first visit to the middle school library in 6th grade, I checked out "Little Women." The librarian, looked at me skeptically over her tiny, librarian glasses and said, "I think this might be a little too hard for you." "You don't know me," I thought, but did not say. I was painfully shy, but super sassy in my head. When Louisa May Alcott's father gave one of her stories to a friend of his in publishing, the man said, "'Tell Louisa to stick to her teaching,' the gentleman said kindly. 'She is never going to be a writer.'" Louisa's response? You don't know me. "'I will not stick to my teaching; I will be a writer,' she declared. 'And I will write for his magazine, too.'" And she did all those things. One of my favorite details from this book was that Louisa never had a desk or study of her own. She had a writing case that she held on her knee in order to write, proving that a writer can write anywhere, anytime, without any special space or tools -just her own imagination. When I finished this book, I took my well-worn copy of "Little Women" off the shelf and read the first page. Although I did read a library copy of it the first time (in 6th grade, thank you very much), it was one that I had to own for my collection and I've read it multiple times over the years. This biography made me want to explore more of Alcott's work. Learning that Alcott had been friends with Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorn, also reminded me of how I used to read a lot of classic literature and I'd like to get back into that. Here's one of my favorite lines from the biography: "Life goes on after sorrow, in spite of sorrow, as a defense against sorrow."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob)

    Whew, I survived this! Cornelia Meigs basically worships Louisa Alcott. I'm not saying that she doesn't deserve that level of devotion, just that it gets rather exhausting. Someone who wasn't quite as worshipful might not have held back so much on Louisa's father. Whether your father has amazing ideas or not, he still shouldn't shovel his responsibility onto a young girl; especially when you consider the severe inequality in wages between men and women at that time. The whole time you are left t Whew, I survived this! Cornelia Meigs basically worships Louisa Alcott. I'm not saying that she doesn't deserve that level of devotion, just that it gets rather exhausting. Someone who wasn't quite as worshipful might not have held back so much on Louisa's father. Whether your father has amazing ideas or not, he still shouldn't shovel his responsibility onto a young girl; especially when you consider the severe inequality in wages between men and women at that time. The whole time you are left thinking that perhaps other people in Louisa's life should have stepped up to the plate a bit more. Her father gets to enjoy this nice long life because he's been waited on by his daughter and she gets to die in her fifties. I think I would have preferred a more balanced biography.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jane Potter

    This is a fascinating biography of Louisa May Alcott--and has inspired me to read more of her work this year! It was a bit slow to get into but once I got going, I loved the easy style and storytelling of this biography. What a difficult and joyful life Louisa led! I think the Newbery honor was well deserved for this book. A great way to begin my reading this year!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Evangeline

    I enjoyed it. I would have enjoyed it more if the writing hadn't been so odd. Sentences were broken up in really weird ways, but hey, at last there was some variety. XD I grew up reading Little Women over and over, and it was quite interesting to see all that went behind it.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    From my History of Children's Literature class: It was with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation that I chose Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs for my reading this week—eagerness because of my previously-professed love of Little Women, but trepidation because I wasn’t exactly sure how well a biography from 1933 would fit into a modern curriculum. As it turns out, however, I believe that this book opens doors for discussion and further investigation of From my History of Children's Literature class: It was with a mixture of eagerness and trepidation that I chose Invincible Louisa: The Story of the Author of Little Women by Cornelia Meigs for my reading this week—eagerness because of my previously-professed love of Little Women, but trepidation because I wasn’t exactly sure how well a biography from 1933 would fit into a modern curriculum. As it turns out, however, I believe that this book opens doors for discussion and further investigation of a very broad range of topics, and would be very appropriate for inclusion in a middle school curriculum. Firstly, this book is a great specimen of narrative nonfiction, and is one of the few nonfiction books to have won the Newbery medal—in 1934, no less! The book chronicles the life of author Louisa May Alcott, beginning with a brief overview of her parents’ lives before Louisa’s birth, and ending with Louisa’s death at the age of 55. The book reads like a story, rather than a list of facts, dipping into Louisa’s thoughts and feelings about events in her life, but without ever letting imagination carry the story away from what is known of Louisa’s life, thanks largely to the many written records that Louisa left behind her, and recollections from family members and friends of the Alcotts. The book is sweet without ever becoming saccharine, and while it deals very gently with topics like death, slavery, and financial struggles, it doesn’t shy away from them either. There is a timeline and an index at the end of the book. The school district where I live does not use the Common Core, but I still think they would find this book useful in terms of a few different subject areas. For language arts, perhaps it goes without saying, but this book would pair very well with Little Women, or any of Alcott’s other writings that the class might examine. It would also work very well as a read-aloud, if the opportunity for such exists. Students could read closely and seek out elements of Louisa’s life that are echoed in her writings. Classes could also use this book to discuss biographies in general, and how an author might go about assembling the story of a person’s life. It would be important to discuss how crediting sources takes a bit of a different form today than it did when Meigs wrote this book in 1933. She included her sources rather informally in an “Acknowledgments” note, rather than citing them more formally in a bibliography, as a modern author likely would. This book could also lead to good discussions about the genre of narrative nonfiction, and highlight elements of story (including flashbacks and attention to mood and themes) that differentiate this biography from other nonfiction books that are more strictly concerned with presenting unembellished facts. Perhaps an even better application of this book than as a language arts aid, however, would be as a social studies jumping-off-point. The true beauty of this book lies in its creation of atmosphere and setting. Within the first chapter of the book, the setting and time period are firmly established by the author’s superb attention to details of Louisa’s world. While it doesn’t go into great detail about any particular subject other than Louisa herself, the book touches on a staggering range of other topics, from abolitionism, to transcendentalism, to the Civil War, to peddling goods, to the farming of the time period, to educational philosophy, to writing and publication, to geography, transportation technology, to European history and culture, to diseases, to marriage and family life, to other well-known writers and thinkers of the time period (Emerson, Thoreau, etc.), and more. After reading this book, perhaps students could choose one of these topics—even reluctant students should be able to find something touched upon in this book that sparks a bit of interest—and do some independent further research to share with the class. Exploring topics from steam ships, to Quaker philosophy, to the cotton industry should provide a good picture of what life in the 1800s looked like. If students are using this book for their language arts classes, social studies teachers will find it to be a great jumping-off point for discussion of 19th-century America, and an exploration of how American culture has changed since Louisa’s time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    I have long been a fan of several of the books by Louisa May Alcott -- especially "Little Women." Who isn't a fan of that book?? Several years ago my four daughters and I fell in love with the movie adaptation of the book (Wynona Ryder plays the part of Jo). It is a beautiful family movie, especially for moms and daughters. Then, two years ago my husband and I went to Boston on vacation and while reading a brochure of things to do in the area, my husband found that Louisa May Allcott had grown u I have long been a fan of several of the books by Louisa May Alcott -- especially "Little Women." Who isn't a fan of that book?? Several years ago my four daughters and I fell in love with the movie adaptation of the book (Wynona Ryder plays the part of Jo). It is a beautiful family movie, especially for moms and daughters. Then, two years ago my husband and I went to Boston on vacation and while reading a brochure of things to do in the area, my husband found that Louisa May Allcott had grown up in Concord and tours could taken of her home. Let me just say that although I LOVE colonial history and Boston, we loved our visit to Concord even more. There is so much literary history there it's amazing. Louisa's father was friends with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thorough, Nathaniel Hawthorne and others. It was an amazing collection of writers and thinkers who passed in and out of Louisa's home. I have been wanting to read more about her and her father for some time and finally read this little book. It is an old book, written in 1933 when Alcott had only been dead for 45 years. It is written, therefore in an older style of elegantly written prose. I enjoyed it immensely because I could relate to her beautiful Concord that she loved so much and all the sweet things that happened in Orchard House, because I have visited it and seen the coutry side and Walden Pond which is so close. I was delighted to find out that she wrote more than the four books I'm familiar with ("Little Women," "Little Men," "Eight Cousins," and "Rose in Bloom"). I highly recommend these four books and also this little book about Louisa's life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Carl Nelson

    1934 Newbery Medal recipient. This biography of Louisa May Alcott might have stood a chance of being interesting were it not narrated in the tone of a schoolmarm high on a combination of overwhelming optimism, saccharine drama, and the need to distill a moral lesson from the smallest events of Ms. Alcott's life. That the subject's story is the least bit compelling through the stultifying prose is a good testament to her life and character. A couple examples of what I'm talking about: "A great adven 1934 Newbery Medal recipient. This biography of Louisa May Alcott might have stood a chance of being interesting were it not narrated in the tone of a schoolmarm high on a combination of overwhelming optimism, saccharine drama, and the need to distill a moral lesson from the smallest events of Ms. Alcott's life. That the subject's story is the least bit compelling through the stultifying prose is a good testament to her life and character. A couple examples of what I'm talking about: "A great adventure was just beginning, and strange, bright hopes were darting and lifting everywhere, just as the swallows had so long been darting and soaring about the eaves and above the great chimney." "Courage, terror, dismay and relentless determination were all in her heart as she heard the hollow rumble of the wheels on the covered wooden bridge and knew that she was actually launched upon the first enterprise of seeking her fortunes single-handed." The sentence structure was universally cumbersome thanks to the author's massive reliance on the power of commas to break up the narrative flow. Events were overly dramatized with heavy-handed supposition and themes. In how many ways can one author say that Ms. Alcott's family was poor in money but rich in everything that mattered? If that answer interests you, by all means this is the volume for you! And it's a pity because Ms. Alcott led a very interesting life.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    My Reading Challenge was to "read a biography-not an autobiography or memoir" (Read Harder), and because I have an interest in reading the Newbery Medal and Honor books, I chose this, a biography of Louisa May Alcott which won the Newbery Medal in 1934. Stylistically, it's fascinating; Meigs as a writer seems dated to a modern reader and uses many more clauses, sub-clauses, and commas than is common today. She's also very worshipful toward her subject matter - an attitude that would be discourag My Reading Challenge was to "read a biography-not an autobiography or memoir" (Read Harder), and because I have an interest in reading the Newbery Medal and Honor books, I chose this, a biography of Louisa May Alcott which won the Newbery Medal in 1934. Stylistically, it's fascinating; Meigs as a writer seems dated to a modern reader and uses many more clauses, sub-clauses, and commas than is common today. She's also very worshipful toward her subject matter - an attitude that would be discouraged today. Early on Alcott's father, Bronson, is almost as much the center of the book as Louisa herself; he comes across very much an idealist and dreamer, and his incompetence is the reason the Alcott's poverty. Yet, Louisa via Meigs worships him. Various famous authors and poets are family friends: Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Emerson (on whom Louisa had a girlish crush). Of particular interest to me was her time spent as a nurse in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. After several months there she contracts typhoid and returns home to MA where she is nursed back to health by her family. Family. That's really the overriding theme of this book and of Louisa's life: the love of family and her quest to ensure that finally they are well enough off. I'm sufficiently intrigued to add an Alcott book to next year's Reading Challenge.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Ensiform

    The winner of the 1934 Newbery, this non-fiction work tells of Louisa’s family, her deep bond with her loved ones, her struggles in poverty and as a nurse and with typhoid, and finally her writing success. It’s an informative book, written in the rather overly convoluted style of the time, but certainly understandable to anyone who enjoys Alcott’s own works. I had no idea that her father, Bronson, was celebrated in his time for his prescient and bizarre ideas on children’s education and communal The winner of the 1934 Newbery, this non-fiction work tells of Louisa’s family, her deep bond with her loved ones, her struggles in poverty and as a nurse and with typhoid, and finally her writing success. It’s an informative book, written in the rather overly convoluted style of the time, but certainly understandable to anyone who enjoys Alcott’s own works. I had no idea that her father, Bronson, was celebrated in his time for his prescient and bizarre ideas on children’s education and communal living. The family knew Emerson well, and he helped fund some of Bronson’s short-lived initiatives. The section on Louisa’s experiences as a war nurse are also illuminating: they show a dedicated, strong woman, easily identifiable as Jo March. I can’t quite see why this would be picked as the very best in juvenile literature for the year – it’s a good story, nicely told, but nothing amazing. Still, it’s nice to think that at one point in the pre-TV past, American adolescents and young adults read not only good novels, but liked them so much they sought out books about authors.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Linds

    I’m not a big fan of Little Women (heinous, I know), so I wasn’t too excited to be reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott. This read as a pretty disjointed biography on top of that. I get that the information collected was probably a little rough around the edges, but the fact/story aspect was presented a little bizarrely. I found a groove after the book discussed Little Women being written, so I imagine that’s when her life was more accurately documented, and that's when the author had more i I’m not a big fan of Little Women (heinous, I know), so I wasn’t too excited to be reading a biography of Louisa May Alcott. This read as a pretty disjointed biography on top of that. I get that the information collected was probably a little rough around the edges, but the fact/story aspect was presented a little bizarrely. I found a groove after the book discussed Little Women being written, so I imagine that’s when her life was more accurately documented, and that's when the author had more information to mold. Either way, I didn’t like how the earlier years were done. (view spoiler)[ And the last chapter was cruel in tricking me with a title of “happy endings” (or something like that) and then killing lots of people. Sisters, dads, everybody dies! Happy indeed! Bah. (hide spoiler)] This is not a bad book, and I've liked Cornelia Meigs' other works. I'm a more factual person, and I don't get along with biographies that have a fictionalized feel to them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    I’ve often heard little stories about the Louisa of this book, Louisa May Alcott, but I’ve never read much real information about her. This is a biography of her life. Louisa grew up in a family determined to change the world by actively living their beliefs. She was best known as the author of Little Women. As interesting to me as Louisa May Alcott was her father. Bronson Alcott was friends with every influential person of his time including Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorn. He barely made enough I’ve often heard little stories about the Louisa of this book, Louisa May Alcott, but I’ve never read much real information about her. This is a biography of her life. Louisa grew up in a family determined to change the world by actively living their beliefs. She was best known as the author of Little Women. As interesting to me as Louisa May Alcott was her father. Bronson Alcott was friends with every influential person of his time including Emerson, Thoreau, and Hawthorn. He barely made enough money to feed his children, yet he felt led to always give what little he had away to help others. Louisa provided the only income the family had for much of her life. She worked doggedly as a writer between stints of work as a governess, a teacher, and a seamstress. What a family!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    Newbery Medal Winner--1934 This was such a nice change from the international-historical fiction that has dominated these early Newbery winners. I don't usually enjoy biographies, but this was so incredible--mostly because of the incredible life Louisa May led, and the fact that you see flashes of Little Women throughout her life. And what a life! From growing up in poverty to having family friends like Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow...even reclusive Nathaniel Hawthorne! From being a nurse during th Newbery Medal Winner--1934 This was such a nice change from the international-historical fiction that has dominated these early Newbery winners. I don't usually enjoy biographies, but this was so incredible--mostly because of the incredible life Louisa May led, and the fact that you see flashes of Little Women throughout her life. And what a life! From growing up in poverty to having family friends like Emerson, Thoreau, Longfellow...even reclusive Nathaniel Hawthorne! From being a nurse during the Civil War to finally gaining recognition as a writer. If you love Little Woman, you'll love this heartwarming look at the author's life (she IS Jo, people...like...seriously). My first four-star Newbery from the early winners!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tricia Douglas

    This was a great early Newbery Award book in which I learned much about Louisa May Alcott, her family and writing. Such an amazing author with much stamina to take care of her family and become so involved in the situation of that time. The author, Meigs, did a wonderful job of analyzing LITTLE WOMEN and discussing how the characters in Alcott's books related to Louisa's family. I read this book for my GR Newbery book group. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I enjoyed this biography of Alcott. While I think it put a nice spin on her father's inability to provide for the family, I do think it pointed out the hardships the family endured because of this inability. So, in my opinion, it wasn't completely skewed. It was interesting to read about the relationships between Louisa and her family as well as the relationships between her family and so many other renowned people of the time, particularly Emerson.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sally

    Just one of many books that makes me wish I had a daughter to pass it on to. Confession time for me: I use to stay up late at night, writing in my journal, pretending to be Jo March ;) What a great role model for young women...and I just love the sisterly relationships and of course, the beloved "marmee"!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Fairly enjoyable and quick, but overly worshipful, and quite the Bronson Alcott apologia. Like Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, this is a fairly standard children's biography--but I think this might have set the standard for the others.

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