Reading Invincible Louisa by Cornelia Meigs was like catching up with an old friend whom I hadn’t seen (or truthfully even thought of) in years. The subtitle of this juvenile biography is The story of the author of Little Women, and that’s just what it is. However, it is written in such a way to seem almost novel-like, or at the very least not the dry, dusty, detailed tome one might think of when thinking of a biography. Cornelia Meigs’ writing style is warm, engaging, and even entertaining. (I shared one of my favorite little vignettes from the story here, if you’d like a little taste of Meigs’ style.) This book was most certainly deserving of the 1932 Newbery Medal it received. In some ways I can’t imagine a child reading this book and getting a whole lot out of it, but according to the Newbery Medal terms and criteria, the award is for books for children which means “persons of ages up to and including fourteen.” I would say that this book is probably on the upper end of the age range, and thus it is particularly enjoyable to adults.
I can’t help but wonder if Meigs’ take on the Alcott family is a bit romanticized or idealized, especially when I think about my own studies of the Transcendentalist movement of which Bronson Alcott (Louisa’s father) was a part. According to Meigs, Louisa’s reason for being was to take care of her family, and when she finally achieved fame and fortune, this was what gave her satisfaction. This seems a little bit strange to me, but perhaps this is my modern mindset that I’m bringing to the book. And of course, this is not to say that I didn’t enjoy this one; I most certainly did–a lot. This book is a winning combination of a fascinating subject written about in a beautiful way. I love this short paragraph toward the end of the book. It sums up Louisa’s life so beautifully:
Fame during a lifetime is something to win, but fame and affection which are to last a hundred years are rare indeed. These Louisa had, with a richness of deserving about which we love to think as we look back at her, gay-spirited, vivid, and hopeful, waving not to May, but to us, across the century. (185)
My curiosity about all things Louisa May Alcott is piqued. I’d like to delve further into her life and her work. I’m very familiar with Little Women, having read and re-read it as a child and teenager. However, that is the extent of my reading of her or about her. I think I need to remedy that! I have the little juvenile novel Fruitlands by Gloria Whelan, which is about a pivotal time in the Alcott family’s life, at the ready, but I’ve also been thinking about hosting a little challenge for Louisa’s birth month, November. Would anybody be up for that?
At any rate, I most definitely give Invincible Louisa a Highly Recommended and am happy to add it to my list of books read for the Newbery Through the Decades Challenge and to mark it off my Classics Club list!