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Monday, May 3, 2010

Louisa May Alcott as Jo March

‘Little Women’ author stars in Kelly O’Connor McNees’ historical fiction

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The finest literary collection would not be complete without Louisa May Alcott’s timeless classic, Little Women. Perhaps no other fiction writer is more strongly connected to a character of her own creation than Alcott is with Jo March. It is no secret that Alcott modeled Jo on herself—a topic that practically begs for further examination. In Kelly O’Connor McNees’ debut novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, McNees mixes fact and fiction as she examines Alcott’s life and intimates an unknown love affair between Alcott and a handsome young merchant she met during the scantily documented summer of 1855. Like the leading lady in Little Women, Alcott emerges as a charming young woman in The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, one who is torn between the expectations of women in 19th-century society and her unfulfilled desire for personal independence and a career as a writer.

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott provides a tale of romantic fiction that will have fans of Little Women falling in love with Alcott in much the same way they fell in love with Jo March. For generations, Jo, that feisty and spirited budding feminist, has been the object of admiration for many young readers. In The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, the famous author herself emerges as a heroine as the passionate independence of Jo is uncovered within her alter ego Louisa.

McNees, 30, is a former English teacher whose countless readings of Little Women inspired her to research the enigmatic American author—an endeavor that ended in the creation of this simple and lively story of first love. McNees is a Chicago resident who grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott is a wonderfully creative and innocently sweet story that imagines a summer lost to history—a summer that changed the course of Alcott’s writing career and led to the story of love and heartbreak recorded in Little Women.

Kelly O’Connor McNees will appear at Boswell Book Co. on Thursday, May 6, at 7 p.m.