“I like good strong words that mean something…”
– Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
Louisa May Alcott was indeed a woman of strong words. Although she started her writing career out of necessity to support her family during times of poverty, she made sure that her works had character. Growing up among the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Alcott turned out to be a feminist and abolitionist. In the 19th century, she was among the few female authors who were capable of conveying a message of woman empowerment through her works and gaining popularity at the same time. Undoubtedly, she is one of the most popular authors of her time who is still relevant today.
After all, who has not come across Alcott’s Little Women? With multiple adaptations on screen and print, the book has become a staple in popular culture. I myself read Little Women when I was nine. However, Alcott’s writing prowess is not only limited to Little Women, Little Men, and Jo’s Boys. She was a prolific writer who penned a number of amazing books.
As we celebrate her ninety-one birthday this November 29, let us have a look at some of her lesser-known works.
Date of Publication: 1849
Louisa May Alcott was only seventeen when she penned The Inheritance. It was not till the summer of 1988, the manuscript of Alcott’s first novel was discovered. Naturally, everyone was elated to get their hands on that elusive novel that Jo March from The Little Woman had written. Nevertheless, The Inheritance is a beautiful story in its own right. The story revolves around Edith Adelon and her beau, Lord Percy. Alcott’s take on the romance of two idealistic young people reminds us of the innocence of first love. There is an element of mystery to boot as well.
Date of Publication: 1875
Eight Cousins is a coming-of-age novel that centers around thirteen-year-old Rose Campbell. After losing her parents, Rose finds herself in the household of her six aunts and seven boy cousins. Stifled by the strictures of her stuffy aunts, Rose gets freedom after the arrival of her Uncle Alec. He encourages her to leave the house, exercise, and get rid of her corsets. Under Alec’s guidance and with her cousins’ support, she truly begins to bloom. Rose’s adventures with her cousins make us remember our own carefree days of childhood. Eight Cousins is a great read for anyone who likes Anne of the Green Gables, Heidi, and books of their ilk.
Rose in Bloom
Date of Publication: 1876
Rose in Bloom is the sequel to Eight Cousins. As the name suggests, the book follows Rose as she returns to Aunt Hill at twenty-one years of age. Now an heiress, Rose is surrounded by suitors. She is also hounded to get married by her well-meaning aunts. However, Rose does not want to just settle into the usual marital life. She wants to make something of herself first. Rose in Bloom is a mesmerizing story that showcases the growth of a young lady. With a strong feminist message, the book depicts the importance of both finding oneself and the right partner.
An Old Fashioned Girl
Date of Publication: 1870
An Old Fashioned Girl portrays the value of the simple way of life. The book follows Polly Milton, the fourteen-year-old daughter of an impoverished minister, who visits her friend, Fanny Shaw, in Boston. The city life overwhelms Polly. Similarly, the urban folks find her country manners and unfashionable clothes weird. It is a treat to see how a balance is achieved between the two ideals. Alcott’s commentary on the society of the day is still somewhat relevant today. Also, I love how she shows that love and simplicity can help us overcome anything.
Jack and Jill: A Village Story
Date of Publication: 1878
Jack and Jill: A Village Story is set in the post-Civil War era in New England. It revolves around Jack, Jill, Merry, Molly, Frank, Gus, and Joe. Jack and Jill as they go up a hill. A terrible sledding accident confines both of them to their beds for a long time. Throughout this difficult time, they are supported by their friends. The children gradually grow up and learn to tackle life’s adversities. Jack and Jill: A Village Story is a must-read for children and young adults.
Under the Lilacs
Date of Publication: 1880
Under the Lilacs starts off with Bab and Betty having a tea party with their dolls under the lilacs. They are flabbergasted when their rendezvous gets mysteriously disrupted. Soon, they discover Ben and his dog, Sancho. Ben had run away from the circus to escape the harsh treatment of the ringmaster. With the help of Bab, Betty, and Mrs. Moss, Ben and Sancho hope to find a new lease on life. Under the Lilacs is full of the children’s adventures. To add to that, it has a strong message. It is a perfect read for children and those who long to go back to their free-spirited summer escapades.
Date of Publication: 1863
Hospital Sketches is a thought-provoking novel based on Louisa May Alcott’s own experiences working as a nurse in a hospital in Washington, D.C., during the Civil War. The book revolves around Tribulation Periwinkle, who gets appointed as a nurse to tend to the wounded soldiers of the Army of the Potomac. Alcott paints a picture of understaffed hospitals, dying men, ill-treated black men, and the role of women during the Civil War. She also adds a touch of humor to the grim subject matter making Hospital Sketches a work of all the more significance.
Louisa May Alcott was one of her kind, just like Jo March, the heroine of her Little Women. Alcott was a true pioneer who brought about a new voice in young adult literature. Her focus on flesh and blood young girls makes her books a breath of fresh air even today.
Do comment and let me know your favorite Louisa May Alcott book.