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.
I just finished reading Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs. It was waiting patiently on my bookshelf for over a decade. Do you ever feel like certain books fall into your hands when you need them most? I have been struggling with writing my own YA novel, fighting through some serious writer’s block, and questioning my writing endeavor. Then one day, after the library was closed, I pulled Invincible Louisa off of the shelf and started to read. Louisa May Alcott was an incredible young woman who was bursting with life, love, courage, and imagination. Her story was a whisper of understanding that I didn’t realize I needed to hear. Her life was full of ups and downs. Small tastes of success and a vast amount of disappointment, but through it all she maintained her enthusiasm for art and life. I needed a reminder that every writer has their own struggle with the craft, I would never compare my amateur writing to Alcott’s, but we all have to start somewhere, and sometimes it’s nice to hear that even literary masters had to shape, mold, and master their work over time. Meigs wrote, “Long after, she [Louisa] once said of herself that disappointment must be good for her, she got much of it. She learned to meet it bravely, although often she felt at first a hot wave of revolt.” Many writers struggle to persevere after the rejection letters pour in, but I think Alcott’s story proves that you must write for yourself first, and publishers second. Write because you can’t control your fingers as thoughts overflow your mind, and you feel you might burst if you can’t document your ideas.
Anyone who is a literary enthusiast would find the history of Alcott’s life incredibly fascinating. Bronson Alcott, Louisa’s father, was a figurehead of transcendentalism and public education. Meigs wrote of Bronson that, “Bronson had theories so far advanced of his time that even in our day we have not caught up with all of them [written in 1933, 70 years later].” His colleagues and friends were some of the greatest American writers of all time. Louisa’s small feet walked the halls of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house and later he became a mentor to her. Through her father, Louisa met William Lloyd Garrison, Henry David Thoreau, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. There are yet more distinguished people of American history within Alcott’s life, but I will let you discover those hidden gems.
Meigs’ novel, Invincible Louisa, is as memorable as Little Women. Written in 1933, it has that yummy, rich, impeccable use of the English language that makes me swoon. For example, Meigs describes Alcott’s success as such, “Fame during a lifetime is something to win; but fame and affection which are to last a hundred years are seldom earned.” Isn’t that a lovely way of saying, she was famous and loved and will be for generations to come?
I think the task of writing about one of America’s most beloved female authors must have been extremely daunting, but Meigs wrote Invicible Louisa as if she were a member of the Alcott-May family and expereinced their joy and tragedy alongside them. Through Meigs research and attention to detail, we gain a glimpse into the life of one of the most influential writers for young adults that has ever lived. The history within Invincible Louisa is textbook-worthy, but written with the style and warmth of a favorite novel.
I highly reccomend Invincible Louisa, especially if you are a writer yourself, are interested in the evolution of American writing, or both.