Thursday, December 24, 2009

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women

By Harriet Reisen

5.0 out of 5 stars Looking forward to the PBS American Masters Presentation..., December 24, 2009
By Reading It All (Orange County, CA USA) - See all my reviews
I have always been a fan of Louisa May Alcott's writing and when I was given the opportunity to read Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women (John MacRae Books) I jumped on it.

Harriet Reisen has a background as a writer of documentaries and I wasn't expecting more than a light biography but this is so much more because of Ms. Reisen's twenty year relationship with Louisa May Alcott. She explains how the book came out of the screenplay and the differences between the two...I am quoting her below.

From Harriet Reisen's Bio:

I decided to write the film script completely from primary sources. Louisa and all the other characters would speak only words they had written or were reported by contemporaries to have said. My choice and arrangement of scenes and dialogue, our production choices, interviews with scholars and experts, and Nancy's direction and editing were our only means to interpret Louisa's character and her life. We had no narrator to get between the viewer and the material.

What the film gained in authenticity was worth the embargo on my own knowledge and opinion. The book came as a gift--with room to let Louisa's story roam, and freedom to tell it in my own words and fill it with characters without having to consider what their costumes and meals would cost.


This book gave me a warm, up close peak at Louisa May Alcott - the woman! Reisen does a fabulous job of dropping you into the period - so well in fact that I learned some history and discovered quite a bit about the environment that LMA and her art grew from.

I think that I would have loved to work beside the LMA that treated the wounded in the Civil War. Her family, her politics, and her writing. This is a multi faceted woman and Reisen polishes every facet - light and dark.

I eagerly await the PBS American Masters Documentary.

Product Description from Amazon
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.

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