The Alcott sisters, Anna, Louisa, Lizzie and May mirrored the fictional March sisters of Louisa’s famed Little Women in a few ways–but not all. Elise Hopper has imagined the life of the youngest Alcott, May, in a few ways that are similar to Amy March–both study art, and in others ways that bear no resemblance to the youngest March sister.
What I Liked
I was relieved that May was not the bratty Amy of Little Women! The first part of the book was a bit lacking in depth so I began to grow fearful of the fictional Amy taking over the fictional May….if you can follow that! Happily, with part II the book found both its footing and May’s identity as separate from Amy. I liked that, when possible, Hooper kept things in tune with the historical record. I’ve read a lot on the Alcott family so my expectations were fairly high for the story’s truthful portrayal of all the Alcotts. In the end, that turned out not to matter, for range of emotion that Hooper gives May–especially in regard to her famous sister, makes May real in every way. This is a superb story, engagingly told. Do stick around for the Afterward when the author tells what is, and what is not, historical fact–it is well worth it.
As portrayed here, May was a slightly shallow young woman who found substance through her study of art. I liked that Louisa was shown “warts an all,” as an often daunting task mistress who harped at May about family responsibility. As May studies art, experiences life in new cities and makes her own circle of friends she becomes someone I could respect–and would have enjoyed knowing.
I liked, too, that the author responsibly created personalities for various artists that were believable and in tune with their own era. No one has overly modern views, even if they find fault with the events or expectations of their day. [Portrait of May by Rose Peckman]
Of all the art and artists scenes in the book, I especially loved the scene with May and John Ruskin, as May is sketching the works of J.M. Turner in a museum. I wish every student could read that scene and learn from it. I’ll give you a hint–it is similar to Matthew 7:7!! (No spoilers now!)