Monday, October 10, 2011

Invincible Louisa, by Cornelia Meigs

The edition of this book I obtained through my local library system is the 1968 "Alcott Centennial Edition". It does speak well for the contents that the book was still in print 30 years after its initial publication, but the cover of the book scarcely inspires one to open it. The portrait on the cover makes Louisa look pretty dull, and the mustard-colored cover also does the book no favors (although, to be fair, in those days everyone looked bad in a portrait, and everyone's hair was pretty unfortunate).

That said, the book was a very easy and enjoyable read for some one familiar with Little Women. Meigs took a great deal of care to incorporate significant events in Louisa's life, especially ones that found their way into her novel in one way or another. I was pleasantly surprised, since Cornelia Meigs has been no great friend of mine during my Newbery journey.

Although most events are portrayed neutrally, and blame is never placed, I couldn't help but find myself frustrated with Louisa's father, Bronson. He seemed unmotivated by four daughters at home to apply himself to something useful with a regular and significant income. Instead he seemed to flit around hoping to apply himself to an experimental school or lifestyle or project that matched his inner inspiration. The family was always cheerful and close and made do, but Louisa always felt the burden of their poverty and made it her goal from a young age to put herself in a position to provide comfortably for them (which really should not have been her job, especially given the era in which she lived). She did eventually manage to do so, but at the expense of many missed opportunities, no doubt. She died unmarried and prematurely, the result of an incomplete recovery from typhoid, which she had obtained working far from home as a nurse for wounded Civil War soldiers. She was amazingly self-sacrificing but I couldn't help wishing that she could have been just a little bit selfish for her own sake. And I also wish that some one could have given Bronson Alcott, as charming and noble as he probably was, a swift kick in the shins and a reminder that his family's welfare was his responsibility.

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