Monday, 27 April 2015

Review: The Revelation of Louisa May - Michaela MacColl

The Revelation of Louisa May by Michaela MacColl, published by Chronicle Books on 14th April 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Louisa May Alcott can't believe it—her mother is leaving for the summer to earn money for the family and Louisa is to be in charge of the household. How will she find the time to write her stories, much less have any adventures of her own? But before long, Louisa finds herself juggling her temperamental father, a mysterious murder, a fugitive seeking refuge along the Underground Railroad, and blossoming love.

I love the story 'Little Women' by Louisa May Alcott.  It's a childhood favourite which I still enjoy re-reading now.  There's something utterly captivating about the March sisters which never fails to delight me.  When I heard about Michaela MacColl's new book, I knew immediately that I wanted to read it because it weaves fact and fiction to present a portrait of the life of the famous author.  I loved the little quotes from 'Little Women' which are at the start of every chapter.   

Set in 1846, Louisa May Alcott's early life unfurls on the page.  There's Louisa herself, along with younger sisters Beth and May, plus beloved Marmee and the elusive figure of their father Bronson.  At the beginning of the book Marmee is getting set to temporarily leave the family to find work elsewhere and it's up to a young Louisa to step into her shoes and keep her sister and father looked after. 

The Alcott family are vocal abolitionists and this plays a huge part in the plot of the book.  It incorporates aspects of the slave trade and highlights the way in which the Alcotts helped to shelter slaves who had escaped and were looking for a new future.  I found this aspect of the story really interesting, as Louisa and co place themselves in real danger to try to help those who desperately need their assistance. 

The story features some other real life figures too.  Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are philosophers who play a big part in Louisa's outlook on life.  I didn't know a huge amount about them beforehand, so I enjoyed discovering more about their beliefs and morals and the way in which their lives intersected with Louisa's.

There were some good plot twists near the end and some quite unexpected surprises which kept me on my toes.  I loved the combining of historical and biographical details which made this a brilliant read which I would recommend to anyone wanting to know more about the famous author of a well loved classic.     

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