Expert Knowledge: Alcott’s Secrets
Kelly O’Connor McNees, who visits the Concord Bookshop on 4/25 to discuss her new novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, on what she’s uncovered on that town’s beloved author.
In your book, Alcott falls in love; in real life, she was a steadfast spinster. Do you think she lamented her failure to marry? I don’t think so. When she wrote Little Women, Louisa wanted [her character] Jo to remain a “happy spinster” and travel the world, but her publisher urged her to give Jo a husband. Thus we have one of literature’s most bizarre endings: Laurie marries our heroine’s sister and our heroine marries a boring old man.
In the course of your research, what discovery most surprised you? That Louisa did not want to write Little Women. Her father and her publisher urged her to do it, and though it made her famous and wealthy, it prevented her from writing fiction for adult readers.
What work besides Little Women do you recommend to budding Alcott aficionados? Louisa wrote an astonishing number of stories and novels, many under pseudonyms because they were too sensational for the Alcott brand. A Long Fatal Love Chase is a thriller about a passionate love affair that turns deadly.