Scribbles, Sorrows, and Russet Leather Boots: The Life of Louisa May Alcott
by Liz Rosenberg (Goodreads Author), Diana Sudyka (Illustrations)
3 out of 5 stars
Louisa May Alcott is best known as the author of the popular classic Little Women. However, her life before she became a famous authoress was full of difficulty. She grew up poor and needy in an unstable though loving home. Her sisters, whom she immortalized as the March sisters, were her closest friends and companions. But it was her parents, Abbey and Bronson Alcott, who had the deepest influence on her life.
Bronson Alcott was insane. He literally had insanity running in his family tree. He told people he was “the Messiah of education”, and thought he would completely reform the American education system. However, all his attempts to start a school failed miserably once the parents found out what nonsense he was teaching their children. He was more interested in his daydreams than in providing for his family’s everyday needs, so it fell to Abby and eventually to Louisa to work and scrape to put food on the table.
To make a few dollars here and there, Louisa took odd jobs, sometimes as companion to rich relations, and she wrote little sensation stories and sketches for magazines. She also worked as a hospital nurse during the Civil War, where she contracted pneumonia and was treated with a medicine that had mercury in it. Her health never fully recovered, and she suffered from the effects of mercury poisoning for the rest of her life.
In the midst of illness and poverty, she began to write in earnest, eventually writing Little Women, which became an instant best-seller and made her a rich woman. She used most of her money to help her family, to fund her nephews’ and niece’s education, and to help the poor.
This book is not exactly pleasant to read, because Louisa’s life was not exactly pleasant. There is a lot of heartache and disappointment. Someone in the family is almost always ill, collapsing from overwork, stressed and frustrated. One by one, friends abandon them, schemes for employment fall through, and relations die suddenly, leaving behind a grieving Louisa.
It was inspiring to read about how Louisa triumphed over her difficult circumstances, and I admire her courage and tenacity, and of course the brilliance of her writing. However, this book just made me sad. There is so much focus on the negative things in her life.
I think the illustrations make this look as if it should be a book for children or teens, but the subject material is quite dark at times. The art style is very cartoonish and fun, but the tone of the book is sad.
I was not particularly impressed with the writing style. It was fine, and I found it interesting to read, but there were little things that I felt could have been explained in a better way. Some of the information was repeated again in different chapters, and I felt it was redundant. I would have liked more of a focus on Louisa and her sisters, rather than so much of the book being taken up with weird Bronson and morose Abby.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a free and honest review. All the opinions stated here are my own true thoughts, and are not influenced by anyone.