Reisen’s love for Little Women and curiosity about the author became a grand obsession, inspiring her to write the screenplay for the first Alcott documentary and this uniquely vital and dramatic biography. Reisen’s cinematic eye brings Louisa to whirling life as a coltish, fearless girl of “explosive exuberance” and sharp intellect, while she portrays Louisa’s parents with compassion and criticism: blue-blooded Abigail, continually pregnant, impossibly burdened, yet resilient and innovative; utopian Bronson, famous for his progressive ideas, infamous for his incompetence. Alcott inherited her mother’s pragmatism and courage and a touch of her father’s vision and madness and bravely struggled through a crazy-quilt childhood of wretched poverty and social privilege—their closest friends were the luminaries Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau, whom Alcott loved. She supported the family, laboring as a laundress, teaching, and serving as an army nurse in the Civil War while “training herself as a businesswoman as well as a fast, versatile pen for hire.” Reisen analyzes Louisa’s great pleasure in writing lucrative pulp fiction, her sacrifices, adventures, and brilliant career. Here, finally, is Alcott whole, a trailblazing woman grasping freedom in a time of sexual inequality and war, a survivor of cruel tragedies, a quintessential American writer. Reisen’s magnificent biography will be in high demand when PBS premieres her American Masters documentary. — Donna Seaman
“The Little Women author smoked hash, had a crush on Thoreau and may have been manic depressive,” says People’s November 23, 2009 issue.
“Ms. Reisen is a master storyteller, enthused Marion Elizabeth Rodgers of The Washington Times about the author of Louisa May Alcott. “With compassion and insight, she propels readers on to the next adventure, sacrifice, tragedy and triumph… .that happy sense of discovery is your reward in reading this masterful work by this talented new biographer.”
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As Harriet Reisen’s enchanting biography reminds us, Alcott patterned the March family on her own and Jo on herself . . . . [Her life] is richly examined in Ms. Reisen’s full and vivid portrait.”—Melanie Kirkpatrick, The Wall Street Journal
“Harriet Reisen’s Louisa May Alcott captures the grit and grace notes of the hardscrabble life and eventual fame of the Little Women author. When not writing books, magazine pieces, journal entries, and letters, Alcott tended Civil War soldiers, traveled, and taught. Her story equals—maybe bests—her beloved book about the lively March sisters.” Elle, November 2009
Good Reads, Book Picks for November recommends bio “To Delight You: Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen. Born to a prestigious but poor New England family. Little Women’s creator wresteled with, ambition, illness, and fame …. this juicy bio is a page-turner.”
Good Housekeeping’s Good Reads, Book Picks, for November recommends bio “To Delight You: Louisa May Alcott, by Harriet Reisen. Born to a prestigious but poor New England family. Little Women’s creator wresteled with, ambition, illness, and fame… this juicy bio is a page-turner.”