The Other Alcott
by Elise Hooper
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Named one of POPSUGAR’s 25 Books to Read This Fall!
Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.
We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.
Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.
Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?
So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”
“Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families. To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow on our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”—Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens
You two make me glad I’m an only child.
I’m advising you to find the balance between painting your subject with mastery and sensitivity. In other words, if a client hires you to paint a portrait of his horse-faced wife, you better find a way to make those horsey features attractive.
She had violet-colored eyes that glowed like amethysts from under a fringe of long black lashes. Between her size and extraordinary eye color, she looked like a fairy. May eyed the remarkable-looking woman’s ears to be sure they weren’t pointed.
He picked at his lapels with soft, white fingers that made May squeamish with the sensation she was viewing a body part better left unexposed.
When Herr and Frau Nieriker disembarked from the train on Saturday morning, they made a distinctive couple. She possessed the stout figure of a pickling jar whereas he resembled a fork, long and thin with a thatch of white hair that stuck straight upward in tines.
I seldom read historical novels as the feminist in me becomes extremely chafed by how poorly women were treated – even by their own families. Not that we are always treated so well now, but women had no rights and such limited input or control over their lives and bodies. This story brought that point home and I could feel the frustration of both May, her friends and fellow artists, and despite her success, even her crabby sister Louisa. I cannot imagine the massive amount of research Ms. Hooper completed for this fascinating and thought-provoking story that was inspired by real people and factual accounts. It was an interesting and inspiring read that often squeezed my heart, and had an ending and Afterward that stung my eyes. I greatly enjoyed the history lesson of the exciting artist movement of Impressionism as I have always admired the works of Monet and Degas.
I grew to greatly admire May who was the youngest of the surviving daughters of intelligent yet irresponsible parents. Louisa was already gaining recognition and fame as the author of Little Women as the story began, while May who aspired to be an artist, was devastated by criticisms and humiliating reviews of the illustrations she had completed for Louisa’s book. She yearned and worked hard for her own independence and achievements/recognition apart from the constraints of her family and especially Louisa, and often feared she would forever be connected to and lessened by her more popular sister. Louisa was surly and irritable; although I imagine I would be as well if I had to support and care for my entire family by writing the type of book I didn’t enjoy while my lazy and negligent father was riding my coattails. Ms. Hooper produced a masterful and well-balanced story and had me feeling far more sympathetic and empathetic toward both women by the conclusion. I was provided with a review copy of this thoughtfully written book by TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins.
About Elise Hooper
Though a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature.