By Trix Wilkins
What if Amy had continued her ardent pursuit of art in Little Women? This novel by Elise Hooper is about the real Amy – May Alcott. The one who did not aim to become “an ornament to society” but relentlessly worked to make a career of her art and succeeded.
All for art and art for all
My favorite thing about The Other Alcott is all the art – the time May spent in Europe taking various art classes, learning techniques, meeting fellow artists, pushing herself to know and try more. The detail was captivating – I felt plunged into the world of art history and the tremendous discipline and tenacity involved in creating art. I have always been disappointed Amy didn’t pursue her art the way her real-life counterpart did and it was a great joy to read of how that process might have happened.
Missing the March sisters
I admit I read this novel expecting more references to Little Women – more letters between herself and her sisters and mother, flashbacks to childhood memories, bantering between all the sisters especially between May and Louisa…even though I knew going into it that the real May Alcott was not actually much like Amy. The narrative flows smoothly as is so I can see why such letters and moments weren’t included; still, I can’t help longing for them! (Maybe I just like long books with such interjections…)
How to court an Alcott
Ahhh, was there a real life Laurie? For the first few chapters I felt like May was more like Jo March in character and temperament than Amy. The book also begins with May having a wealthy and handsome suitor unfazed by her lack of fortune and determined to make her his wife. I like the fact that art was the main focus of the novel; yet I felt the romance was quite rushed. I would have liked to have seen more of the development of the courtship, the character and history of the man she loved.
Favorite quote from the novel
Amy and a friend from art class have this conversation:
“I’ve nothing to lose by trying.”
“I admire your fearlessness.”
“Some might call it foolishness.”
“Well, whatever it is, I like it about you.”
I love that May Alcott kept trying. The courage involved in persisting after disappointment, loss, failure, is no small thing – and Elise Hooper brought this out splendidly in her portrayal of the real Amy March.