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Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott

Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott

3.8 6
by Jeannine Atkins

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May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece—which many say is impossible for a woman—and of finding love, too. When she reads her sister’s wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the youngest of four sisters who trades


May Alcott spends her days sewing blue shirts for Union soldiers, but she dreams of painting a masterpiece—which many say is impossible for a woman—and of finding love, too. When she reads her sister’s wildly popular novel, Little Women, she is stung by Louisa’s portrayal of her as “Amy,” the youngest of four sisters who trades her desire to succeed as an artist for the joys of hearth and home. Determined to prove her talent, May makes plans to move far from Massachusetts and make a life for herself with room for both watercolors and a wedding dress. Can she succeed? And if she does, what price will she have to pay?

Based on May Alcott’s letters and diaries, as well as memoirs written by her neighbors, Little Woman in Blue puts May at the center of the story she might have told about sisterhood and rivalry in an extraordinary family.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Little Woman in Blue is an inspiring and engaging fictional portrait of the artist May Alcott, written with knowledge, sensitivity, and beauty. It is wonderful to see May Alcott gain the center of her own story, and inhabit it with such generosity and grace.”

—Harriet Scott Chessman, author of Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

“At last, a book about the other artistic Alcott sister. May Alcott, dismissed in Little Women as the pampered youngest March sister Amy, explodes onto the pages of this wonderful novel as a real and hugely likeable woman, passionate about life, art, and adventure, and struggling to make sense of her relationship with an older sister who will never appreciate her for who she really is. Thank you, Jeannine, for giving Amy March a voice of her own!”

—Gabrielle Donnelly, author of The Little Women Letters

“I don't know which I admired more: the author's masterful and affectionate resurrection of 19th-century Concord or her imaginative and insightful portrait of the sisterly relationship at the heart of this delightful novel.”

—George Howe Colt, author of The Big House, a National Book Award Finalist

“Devotees of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women will be intrigued by this fictionalized biography of the women behind the characters.”

—Library Journal

“Thoughtful readers will appreciate the depictions of the sisters’ passion for their art and the challenges that 19th-century American women faced when they worked for a living.”

—The Historical Novels Review

“Atkins delivers a marvelous reimagining of the very human story behind one of America’s most beloved novels. Little Woman in Blue is the Little Woman I have always wanted.”

—Erika Robuck, author of The House of Hawthorne and Hemingway's Girl

“Atkins has brought to life the person, places, and time of May Alcott, but in doing so, she has drawn attention to the fact that May Alcott might well be “Everywoman,” no matter in which era she lives,where she chooses to live, or what craft she strives to perfect.”

Story Circle Book Reviews

Little Woman in Blue is a fast-paced, compelling story of two sisters, and their unquenchable drive for success.”

Foreword Review

Library Journal
If readers think about May Alcott Nieriker(1840–79) at all, they probably assume her life mirrored that of Amy March, the fictional character created by her older sister Louisa. In reality, May pursued her commitment to art, exhibited paintings in Paris, and married in her late 30s. At the heart of YA author Atkins's first novel for adults are two conflicts. One is internal as May wrestles with her desires for both artistic achievement and a family of her own. The other is an external rivalry with Louisa, who consistently underestimates May's talents and ambition and finds little happiness in her own success and fame. Yet, Louisa ultimately makes it possible for May to travel and study in Europe, where she encounters women such as Mary Cassatt, who edge into the male-dominated art world. Atkins excels in depicting the town of Concord, MA, and its famous residents. Louisa comes across as cold, self-centered, and unsympathetic, while May demonstrates self-sacrifice, charm, and concern for others. Despite her achievements, she never stops seeking her older sister's approval. VERDICT Devotees of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women will be intrigued by this fictionalized biography of the women behind the characters. Those unfamiliar with the novel or the Alcotts may be less enthusiastic.—Kathy Piehl, Minnesota State Univ. Lib., Mankato

Product Details

She Writes Press
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.10(d)

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Meet the Author

Jeannine Atkins is the author of books for young readers featuring women in history, including Borrowed Names: Poems about Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie and their Daughters. She is an adjunct professor at Simmons College and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She welcomes readers to visit her online at www.jeannineatkins.com.

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Little Woman in Blue: A Novel of May Alcott 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was very dissapointed in this book. I heard so many bloggers and reviewers laud it to the skies when it first came out. However, the story plods without the "lilt" of even the Allcott biography that I got about 4 decades back. Sure, they came from poverty; that was the life if a transendetalist of the time. Sure, women were still seen as simpering fools and made fun of even by other women. Sure, their lack of goid food, warm clothes and intelligent teachers made life hard. And, for sure, there was backbiting and class envy...there still is. However, I have no sympathy for trying to watch the 19th century with 21st century glasses. Atkins has some insight, but her prose is stilted and forced. This is not a good book
DDJTJ More than 1 year ago
What girl didnt read LITTLE WOMEN? I,of course did. LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE BY JEANNINE ATKINS takes the reader back to the family of LITTLE WOMEN but this time we get to mainly focus on May Alcott,lesser known sister of Louisa. Abigail May Alcott has wanted to be her own person not just the sister of Louisa Alcott. Now,thanks to the author, May gets her chance to shine. Its not an easy road for her but she is determined to succeed at what she loves,painting. I fell in love with the LITTLE WOMEN characters again. In LITTLE WOMAN IN BLUE, we see the family we have grown to love in Louisa Alcott's stories but this time its May that gets to shine. i received this book from goodreads in exchange for a review.
KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading Little Woman in Blue by Jeannine Atkins. It tells the story of May Alcott, Louisa May Alcott’s sister (who wrote Little Women and many other wonderful books). May is the youngest sister and loves to create art. Her family is more into books and May does not believe they recognize or acknowledge her work. May works to finance her art classes and dreams of going to Europe (to study art). The book goes on to describe May’s life in Massachusetts, her travels in Europe, her marriage, and artistic successes. I had an extremely difficult time getting into this book. I was looking forward to reading it since I love the works of Louisa May Alcott. This novel is very slow paced (snails move faster) and jumps around from scene to scene (as it skims through May's life). The novel lacks continuity. I give Little Woman in Blue 2.75 out of 5 stars. I found it to be very dry reading (like a biography or textbook) instead of a novel. It does contain interesting information about May Alcott and her feelings toward her sister, Louisa. I just wish the author had written it in a more conversational style that was easy to read. I received a complimentary copy of Little Woman in Blue from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own.
lawyerk More than 1 year ago
An up-front disclaimer: I got an ARC of this book directly from the author, who is a friend of mine. That said, the raptures and raves below are 100% my true opinion of this book, although I've done my best to rein it in a bit in my attempt to write a cogent review. To say that I am impressed with this work of adult historical fiction chronicling the adult life of (Abigail) May Alcott, the youngest of the Alcott sisters, forever painted in common memory as the spoiled, selfish Amy March in Little Women, is a massive understatement. In some ways, it would be more accurate to say that I have been absorbed by it, by the story itself and by the way in which Jeannine tells it. It's extraordinarily well-crafted, in close third person focusing on May, but in such a way that it's nearly impossible not to identify with her as strongly as if seeing things directly through her eyes. There was the night I started reading it, when I put it down at a point where May is tremendously frustrated and stifled, her inner rage boiling over into an attempted act of destruction . . . and I was so cranky that I didn't know what to do with myself. I hadn't been cranky when I started reading, but I identified with May so closely - and with some of the causes of her anger, such as family obligations and societal expectations (even though those don't affect me in nearly the same way as did hers) - that I was pretty much unbearable for the night. The book is a fine balance of detail and gaps, enough for you to go on without filling in every possible bit of information. Spare, lovely prose reflecting that Jeannine is at the height of her craft in this story, bringing the youngest Alcott to life with dignity, respect, and no small measure of love. What the book is about 1. The life and times of May Alcott (later Nieriker), who became a fine artist despite biases at the time against women pursuing art in a serious manner. She was a contemporary of Mary Cassatt and Berthe Morisot, both of whom fell in with the Impressionists, and twice had pieces shown at the Salon in Paris. 2. What it's like to have to compete for artistic space in an artistic family. The Alcott family valued the written word far more than artwork, and May had to fight to make her way in the world - and within her own family. 3. The relationship between two strong-willed sisters, with the extra wrinkle being that both of them were seeking actual acclaim in their professions (and at a time when the word "profession" didn't usually attach to women to begin with). The fact that Louisa based Little Women largely on her own family wasn't lost on her family, and when May found her name scrambled to Amy, then saw how Amy was depicted (which the general public assumed was the gospel, naturally), well, . . . you can just imagine. There still manages to be strong family attachment between them, despite their rivalry, and yet there's always an edge, and May is always (like Amy on the ice) seeking her elder sister's attention, love, and affection. 4. How hard it is for women to "have it all." They could paint OR have families, and most who painted put their work aside once they married. 5. How women have been constrained in expressing their emotions, such as anger. 6. Sexism - how the assumption is that if a woman's piece was chosen for the Salon, it's to get her in bed (more or less).
M_Shore More than 1 year ago
If you’ve read Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, you no doubt remember Jo Marsh’s coddled, self-indulgent little sister, Amy, who trades away her artistic dreams for the promises of marriage. Little Woman in Blue is a refrain of Amy’s story, but with a twist: Author Jeannine Atkins calls Louisa’s character by her real name—Abigail “May” Alcott—and tells her story true. In the 19th century, most female artists eventually exchanged their professional ambitions for marriage proposals, and then plowed their creative urges into homemaking tasks and raising children. But while May Alcott has a frothy side (which no doubt irks her older sister), she is a headstrong woman with loftier goals: Artist. Wife. Mother. Wealth and professional acclaim, when her every wish is granted. In lively passages, Jeannine Atkins describes the myriad obstacles that May encounters on this “road less traveled.” Over time, May’s persistence begins to pay off. She earns the begrudging respect of her older sister, fattens her art portfolio, and is ultimately granted exhibition rights at the esteemed Salon in Paris, where her paintings are displayed alongside some of the most famous artists of her day. Her dreams of marriage and family are eventually realized, when she married Ernest Nieriker and gives birth to a baby girl. There’s more to the story, of course, but you’ll find no spoilers here. In this authentic, if fictionalized, biography, Jeannine breathes new life into one of America’s favorite literary classics. Alcott scholars will find much to love, as will readers for whom this is a first introduction to the characters of Little Women. Rich imagery. Relatable characters. Settings of an era, and a storyline that inspires. Within the first few pages, I became friends with “the little woman in blue.” I embraced her faults and virtues, railed against her torments, and celebrated her brave, if sometimes misguided, efforts to strike a balance between her artistic and personal ambitions. Though I was sorry to reach the end, I will remember May Alcott's story, always.
DEBtastic More than 1 year ago
A touching, heartwarming, and amazing story about the other Alcott sister - May Alcott, portrayed as the selfish Amy in Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel LITTLE WOMEN. What Atkins paints here is a vivid and layered portrait of younger sister May, who was an artist, a dreamer, independent, and loyal. From her days living with her family, to her adventures abroad, to her struggles to become a respected artist in her own right, May’s life unfurls on the pages of this novel. While I was a fan of LITTLE WOMEN as a young girl, I admit not knowing much about the author or her family. I couldn’t stop turning pages as I wondered if May would find success as an artist, find love, or see her family again. Although this is a work of fiction, the author has undoubtedly done a great deal of research to make the May’s life story feel so real and true.