If you’ve ever read this blog, you’ll know that I’m a bit of a Little Women fanatic. I love the March sisters, and as a book nerd growing up in New England, Louisa May Alcott has always been one of my heroes. When I was in grad school, what started out as archival research on a favorite author turned into a full on obsession with the Alcott family as a whole. I read everything there was to read about them. I visited their home and special collections, submerged myself in their letters, scrapbooks and diaries. (I still feel guilty about that, especially when I think of the hand-written notes that read BURN THIS IF I DIE!) This family, gone well over one hundred years, felt so very much alive to me—real-life counterparts even more fascinating than the characters I’d always known and loved. Louisa’s youngest sister, May, spoke to me especially. Not only was she the basis of Amy March (she of the traded limes and the clothespins on her nose), she was also a talented artist praised by Ruskin, a woman who taught Daniel Chester French before he created the Lincoln Memorial. On top of that, she drew angels all over the walls in her house! Her life felt like a great novel, waiting to be written.
And now, Jeannine Atkins has written it.
Little Woman in Blue cracks open the world of May Alcott, a gifted artist who dreams of both a career and marriage, an artistic life and a family life. Growing up in Concord surrounded by great men like Emerson, Hawthorne and Thoreau, May dreams of seeing France and achieving greatness in her own right. When her sister Louisa attains fame and success with Little Women, May is stung by the spoiled and vain depiction of youngest sister Amy. While trying to break free from her sister’s shadow and the constant ghost of her fictional foil, May follows her passions and creates her own important legacy, defying the notion that a woman must choose between dreams and family. (A surprisingly modern struggle, wouldn’t you say?) This beautifully researched novel tells the story of sisterhood, independence, and a truly remarkable woman who deserves a special place in history. I am so, so glad that her story has been told.
Jeannine Atkins does a brilliant job of bringing the Alcotts to life. As an aspiring scholar (AKA fangirl) of the family, I was thrilled to find them rendered just as I’ve always imagined, but with depths and angles I’d never quite considered. The relationships and portrayals of the sisters are so authentic, and Atkins does a phenomenal job of weaving together history and fiction. I loved reading about May as a character, and I found myself torn between squeezing in a few more chapters before bed each night and holding off because I didn’t want the book to end. Whether May was being courted by Julian Hawthorne in Concord or having her art displayed at the Salon in Paris, her life and the world around her completely consumed me. Even though I knew how May’s story would ultimately end, I never knew where the story would take me, and that is all a testament to the great care and craft that Jeannine Atkins has put into these pages.
Even if you know nothing about the Alcotts, I highly recommend this book for a fascinating glimpse into the life of an amazing woman well ahead of her time. For fans of Little Women, there’s no question—this is a novel you can’t miss. Amy March may be a wonderful character (one of my personal favorites), but trust me when I tell you that her real-life inspiration is the one with a story worth telling.
I’m so excited to announce that I’m hosting a giveaway for this novel! To enter, please comment below telling me who your favorite character in Little Women is. I’ll select one lucky winner at random on Friday, October 2, at 6:00 p.m. (ET) If you want to double your chances, you can also comment on the pinned post on my Facebook page. US only…Good luck, my little women (and men!)!!!
For more Book Perfume Little Women fangirling, check out these posts.