Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Little Woman In Blue by Jeannine Atkins

Everyone knows the story of Louisa May Alcott.  Most girls read and internalized the story of Little Women, the fictionalized account of the four Alcott sisters.  While Louisa was famous and remains so, little is known of the other sisters.  Jeannine Atkins remedies this oversight with this account of the youngest daughter's life.  Abigail May Alcott, known as May, also had hopes and dreams.

In the famous book, May's name is rearranged as Amy, the vain little sister who burns Jo's stories in the fire in a temper.  While May did have strong ideas, she loved her sister and was appalled at her portrayal in the book.  May was an artist and struggled to be able to paint and exhibit, ideas that were revolutionary in her lifetime.  There was a charming boy next door who was friends with the family, but May did not marry him.  They did have famous family friends such as the Hawthornes and Emersons, but that did not help the family out of poverty.  Instead, the girls struggled to help support the family.

The novel follows May as she, after years of struggle and poverty, manages to get to Europe.  It details how she had to fight to get painting and anatomy lessons, how certain topics were forbidden for women and how it was unimaginable for a woman to be both an artist and a wife and mother.  She ends up in France where she is just in time for the start of the Impressionist period, and other artists such as Turner of England. 

Atkins has shone a light on another inspiring figure for women.  May Alcott was just as determined as her older sister Louisa to live a meaningful life.  The strictures that encased women were things she fought against her own life, finally carving out a life that satisfied her instead of society.  Along the way, Atkins portrays the family life and obligations that stifled women.  This book is recommended for readers of historical fiction and those looking for inspiring women stories. 

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