• Picador
Reading Group Gold
Louisa May Alcott - Harriet ReisenSee larger image
See Hi-Res Jpeg image
See Hi-Res Tif image

email/print EmailPrint

Louisa May Alcott




Listen: Harriet Reisen Discusses Louisa May Alcott (Duration: 3:07)
Loading the player ...
Book Buy
Book Hardcover
Ebook Ebook 
    
Share this book with friends through your favorite social networking site. Share:           Bookmark and Share
Add this title to your virtual bookshelves at any of these book community sites. Shelve:             
sign up to get updates about this author
add this book's widget
to your site or blog

About The Author

Harriet ReisenHarriet Reisen

Harriet Reisen has written dramatic and historical scripts for PBS and HBO, including a recent PBS documentary on Louisa May Alcott. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and son.

photo: ©Liane Brandon

Stay In Touch

Sign up to recieve information about new releases, author appearances, special offers, all related to you favorite authors and books.

Other Books You Might Like

cover Buy
Isak Dinesen
The Life of a Storyteller

Picador
Winner of the National Book Award A brilliant literary portrait, Isak Dinesen remains the only comprehensive biography of one of the greatest...
cover Buy
Security, Territory, Population
Lectures at the Collège de France 1977--1978

Picador
Marking a major development in Foucault's thinking, this book takes as its starting point the notion of "biopower," studying the foundations of this new...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Irresponsible Self
On Laughter and the Novel

Picador
"James Wood has been called our best young critic. This is not true. He is our best critic; he thinks with a sublime ferocity."--Cynthia Ozick Following the...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Talented Miss Highsmith
The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith

Picador
A 2010  New York Times Notable BookA 2010 Lambda Literary Award Winner A 2009 Edgar Award Nominee A 2009 Agatha Award Nominee A Publishers Weekly Pick of...
cover Buy
Open House
Of Family, Friends, Food, Piano Lessons, and the Search for a Room of My Own

Picador
A warm and seductive meditation on the personal and political from a renowned columnist and "one of the great theorists of race and law" (Henry Louis Gates,...
cover Buy
I Am Alive and You Are Dead
A Journey into the Mind of Philip K. Dick

Picador
For his many devoted readers, Philip K. Dick is not only one of the "one of the most valiant psychological explorers of the 20th century" (The New York Times)...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Delighted States
A Book of Novels, Romances, & Their Unknown Translators, Containing Ten Languages, Set on Four Continents, & Accompanied by Maps, Portraits, Squiggles, Illustrations, & a Variety of Helpful Indexes

Picador
Praised by Tom Stoppard, A.S. Byatt, and critics in the U.S. and the U.K., Thirlwell assembles a playful compendium of anecdotes, photographs, illustrations,...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
How to Be Alone
Essays

Picador
From the National Book Award-winning author of The Corrections, a collection of essays that reveal him to be one of our sharpest, toughest, and most...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Speaker for the Dead

Tor Books
In the aftermath of his terrible war, Ender Wiggin disappeared, and a powerful voice arose: The Speaker for the Dead, who told the true story of the Bugger...
cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Sophie's World
A Novel About the History of Philosophy

Farrar, Straus and Giroux Paperbacks
A page-turning novel that is also an exploration of the great philosophical concepts of Western thought, Sophie’s World has fired the imagination of readers...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Dark Water Rising

Square Fish
With the entire city under water, will Seth and his family make it out alive?

Reading Group Gold

The following author biography and list of questions about Louisa May Alcott are intended as resources to aid individual readers and book groups who would like to learn more about the author and this book. We hope that this guide will provide you a starting place for discussion, and suggest a variety of perspectives from which you might approach Louisa May Alcott.


1. What was your first experience with Little Women? How old were you? Who introduced you to the story? Which of the sisters did you relate to the most? What scenes do you remember most vividly today?

2. Louisa May Alcott describes the realization of her artistic ambitions as “a long-held dream.” Reisen borrows the phrase to describe her own passion for literary biography. Do you believe that Louisa completely fulfilled her long-held dream, or is her work unfinished? Does Reisen fulfill her dream? Can a biography of someone as complex and influential as Louisa ever be finished?

3. In what ways is Louisa a quintessential American figure?

4. In what ways was Louisa far ahead of her time?

5. What traits did Louisa adopt or inherit from her mother? How do those traits contribute to her survival and success? See her mother's letter to her on page 118. How does her advice become central to Louisa's lifelong “creed” on page 332:“Work is such a beautiful & helpful thing & independence so delightful”?

6. Reisen portrays the relationship between Louisa and Bronson as the most complicated of her life, beginning with their shared birthdays and ending with their near-simultaneous deaths. See Bronson’s birthday letters to the child Louisa (52, 79) — how does Reisen characterize Bronson? Does Louisa’s desire to remain unattached stem from her view of her parents’ marriage? Do Reisen’s speculations about Bronson’s likely mental illness affect your impression of him? Do your feelings about him change throughout the book?

7. Under the pen name and alter ego A. M. Barnard, Louisa wrote work that is a far cry from the sweet, domestic stories for which she was popularly known. Is it possible to write well about subjects or places one has never experienced, as when Louisa writes about prostitutes, murder, and sexual relationships? Did she in fact have dark knowledge to draw upon as inspiration?

8. Thoreau and Emerson were ever-present forces in Louisa’s life. How might she have fared without their help and influence? What are some of the roles they played for her and Bronson?

9. In what ways do the Marches live a rosier life than the Alcotts? Did Louisa create the Little Women version of her family in order to explore and work out negative feelings about her childhood? Do you think the book would have been as commercially successful if it were more closely autobiographical?

10. Louisa worked on Moods at different times throughout her career, but seems never to have been happy with it (234). Why did she return to it again at the age of 50 rather than starting a new project? Why did she feel the need to write a great “adult” novel, after achieving such honor and success with Little Women?

11. Louisa’s poems reveal much about her various emotional and mental states throughout her life. Yet, her response to the publication of the heartfelt “Thoreau’s Flute” (226) was that she was a “mercenary creature” who enjoyed the 10 dollars it brought. Does Louisa seem to take refuge in art perhaps as the only place where she can reveal her vulnerabilities?

12. Would Louisa have been happier had she chosen to be more “selfish” after her success, choosing relaxation and pleasure like May? Why does Louisa believe that May’s near-perfect happiness after her marriage was too good to last? Was May’s untimely death a symbolic blow for Louisa as well in terms of her view of life?

13. Louisa moved countless times in her life, hardly staying in the same place for longer than a year. Why was it so difficult for her to settle in any location? What were the effects of her vagabond lifestyle?

14. Money was Louisa’s greatest motivation for her relentless pace of writing, but fame was an inevitable consequence. Was she ever able to truly enjoy the fruits of her labors? Why did she either dismiss or hide from her fans – with the exception of the Lukens sisters (322)? Why did she wish all her letters to be burned after her death? And why do you think she was so especially careful not to disclose the nature of her relationship with Laddie?

15. Louisa seems to take solace in work and a sense of sacrifice for her family. Was she justified in thinking of herself as a martyr for her family, beginning with Reisen’s oft-mentioned incident with the plumcakes? Does Louisa take up this role independently, or is it forced upon her? Why does it especially bother her not to receive presents for Christmas or birthdays? Consider the tragedy that she died utterly alone on her sickbed.

16. How does this biography affect your previous impressions of Louisa? Of mid-19th century America? Of your own attitudes toward familial responsibility and independence?

You May Also Be Interested In

cover Buy

More formats
Audio eBook
Killing Lincoln
The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever

Henry Holt and Co.
A riveting historical narrative of the heart-stopping events surrounding the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the first work of history from...
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
The Kids Will Be Fine
Guilt-Free Motherhood for Thoroughly Modern Women

Metropolitan Books
A bracing, hilarious manifesto for motherhood as it ought to be: spontaneous, loving, and just a little bit selfish Pre-chewing toddler food. Flash cards for...
  
cover Buy

More formats
eBook
Organizing from the Inside Out, second edition
The Foolproof System For Organizing Your Home, Your Office and Your Life

Holt Paperbacks
A completely revised and expanded edition of the New York Times bestselling guide to putting things in order Getting organized is a skill that anyone can...