Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography - Susan Cheever

Susan Cheever profiles a well-loved American author in her biography LOUISA MAY ALCOTT (Simon & Schuster, $26). Louisa was much influenced by her father­–a brilliant philosopher and progressive educator, but an ineffectual provider.  In fact, much of her writing was fueled by the family’s need for money.  She used her own life as inspiration for her most famous book, Little Women; her mother, sisters, and many friends became models for the characters.   Louisa was clearly a product of the fertile literary environment in which she dwelled; the Alcotts counted Emerson, Hawthorne, and Thoreau as friends and neighbors.  Of course, she was also inspired by the times; the Civil War, industrialization, westward expansion, immigration, and the beginnings of the Women’s Suffrage movement informed Alcott’s thinking and writing.  Cheever’s book builds to the eventual success of this beloved author, a triumph after years of hardship and rejection.

Louisa May Alcott: A Personal Biography By Susan Cheever Cover Image
ISBN: 9781416569923
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Simon & Schuster - November 8th, 2011

Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl - Donald Sturrock

Early in STORYTELLER (Simon & Schuster, $30), Donald Sturrock relates Roald Dahl’s skepticism of biography: “Why on earth would anyone read an assemblage of detail, a catalog of facts, when there was so much good fiction around as an alternative?” And so begins this engaging and masterfully researched portrait of an exceptional writer. Dahl’s life was full of adventure and excitement, from his RAF days to his work in wartime intelligence in Washington, D.C. He was a humorous, opinionated, cantankerous, and amazingly caring man. Dahl was larger than life and so much like his fictional characters that reading this biography is in some ways like stepping into a great work of fiction. Sturrock writes in such an elegant and fascinating way that even Dahl would have been pleased.

George Eliot in Love - Brenda Maddox

I’m a longtime fan of British author and journalist Brenda Maddox, who has won many prizes for her biographies of Nora Joyce, Yeats, D.H. Lawrence, and others.  Readers will be captivated by GEORGE ELIOT IN LOVE (Palgrave Macmillan, $25), her new portrait of Marian Evans (the pen name of George Eliot). Described by Henry James as “horse-faced” and “magnificently ugly,” Eliot found unexpected deep happiness and companionship in 24 years of co-habitation with the legally married George Lewes, a member of London’s literary avant-garde.  Lewes’s emotional support was so great that Eliot never wrote before she met him or after he died.  Her royalties were staggering, the equivalent of $400,000 for her second novel, The Mill on the Floss, but by the laws of the day, the money belonged to Lewes, not Evans.