Wednesday, October 11, 2017

TLC Book Tours Review: The Other Alcott by Elise Hooper

Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Pub. Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 432

Genre: Historical Fiction


Named one of POPSUGAR’s 25 Books to Read This Fall!

Elise Hooper’s debut novel conjures the fascinating, untold story of May Alcott—Louisa’s youngest sister and an artist in her own right.

We all know the story of the March sisters, heroines of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. But while everyone cheers on Jo March, based on Louisa herself, Amy March is often the least favorite sister. Now, it’s time to learn the truth about the real “Amy”, Louisa’s sister, May.

Stylish, outgoing, creative, May Alcott grows up longing to experience the wide world beyond Concord, Massachusetts. While her sister Louisa crafts stories, May herself is a talented and dedicated artist, taking lessons in Boston, turning down a marriage proposal from a well-off suitor, and facing scorn for entering what is very much a man’s profession.

Life for the Alcott family has never been easy, so when Louisa’s Little Women is published, its success eases the financial burdens they’d faced for so many years. Everyone agrees the novel is charming, but May is struck to the core by the portrayal of selfish, spoiled “Amy March.” Is this what her beloved sister really thinks of her?

So May embarks on a quest to discover her own true identity, as an artist and a woman. From Boston to Rome, London, and Paris, this brave, talented, and determined woman forges an amazing life of her own, making her so much more than merely “The Other Alcott.”

What Did I Think About the Story?

There are few books that I've read more than once. In fact, I could probably count them on one hand - there's just too many books that I want to read for the first time, let alone more than once! One of those books happens to be Little Women, my all time favorite book (which, as any bookworm will attest, is a high honor indeed). I've lost count of the number of times I've read this stunning classic, so of course I was excited to see how Elise Hooper would showcase the women behind the story, especially the one to inspire Amy (to be completely honest, my least favorite March sister). Amazingly enough, what Hooper does in The Other Alcott is bring May Alcott front and center, allowing her to shine as the unique and talented individual that she was, making her become my favorite Alcott sister!

The story begins shortly after Little Women was published - to great success - with the illustrations done by May being panned by critics. Thus begins the representation of the love/hate relationship between these two opinionated artistic women, a relationship much like I imagine often happens with sisters. There's jealousies and competitiveness and grievances both big and small and this want to prove that she was as talented as her sister seemed to really drive May's ambitions, at least early on. At the same time May yearned for her sister's approval and doubted her own abilities even as she strove to become the best artist she could, one that could actually make a living off of her work as her sister did.  However, unlike Louisa, she also wished to have a life away from her art, one hopefully filled with love and friendship and enjoyment. She's quite the complicated character and came off very real and genuine.

The other characters all felt very realistic and complicated as well, especially Louisa. I was a little shocked by her depiction at first as she is so far from the "Jo March" character I remember and I ended up feeling quite sorry for her. At first she seems so bitter and unhappy, making it seem like everyone just wants money from her but willingly handing it out to her family - with strings in May's case - however, as the story progresses, we realize that she is under great pressure to keep her family taken care of and doesn't really have a life outside of her writing. I think that would  make most people unhappy and I ended up admiring her quite a bit, even if I never really warmed to her as a person.

Characterizations aside, the time and effort given to developing the artistic scene in Boston as well as Europe was fascinating. The reader gets to step into the salons, studios, and ateliers to witness the hard work and dedication that goes in to the vivid and beautiful pieces that adorn the walls. We also get to witness (although secondhand) the birth of the Impressionists, rubbing elbows with such artists as Mary Cassat and more. You can almost feel the excitement and drive to be a part of it all as May strives to develop her talent and fine her unique voice amongst so many talented people.

The Other Alcott was a delight to read. It presents this amazing woman who wants nothing more than to come out from behind the heavy shadow of her famous sister and family, advancing her own talent and making a name for herself, while always struggling with her commitments and responsibilities to that very same family. I won't say too  much about the ending other than to say that it fairly broke my heart, but I will say that, as a whole, I don't think I can ever look at Little Women the same way again. May Alcott was a fascinating person in her own right and I won't soon forget her.

What Did I Think About the Cover?

It's very pretty. I'm not sure that it's exactly how I would picture May, but I do like that it gives the sense of travel and adventure.

My Rating: 5.0/5.0

Thank you to TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins Publishers for providing me with a free copy of The Other Alcott in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Continue below for more information about the book, the author, and the rest of the blog tour!

Praise for The Other Alcott


“Elise Hooper’s thoroughly modern debut gives a fresh take on one of literature’s most beloved families. To read this book is to understand why the women behind Little Women continue to cast a long shadow on our imaginations and dreams. Hooper is a writer to watch!”—Elisabeth Egan, author of A Window Opens

Buy the Book


About the Author

Photo by Chris Landry
Though a New Englander by birth (and at heart), Elise Hooper lives with her husband and two young daughters in Seattle, where she teaches history and literature.

Find out more about Elise at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

TLC Book Tours Schedule

Thursday, September 7th: History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, September 8th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, September 13th: Jathan & Heather
Thursday, September 14th: History from a Woman’s Perspective
Monday, September 18th: Lit.Wit.Wine.Dine.
Thursday, September 21st: bookchickdi
Friday, September 22nd: A Bookish Affair
Monday, September 25th: Literary Lindsey
Tuesday, September 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, September 27th: She’s All Booked
Thursday, September 28th: Openly Bookish
Friday, September 29th: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, October 3rd: View From the Birdhouse
Wednesday, October 4th: A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, October 11th: A Literary Vacation
TBD: Unabridged Chick
TBD: Into the Hall of Books
TBD: Bibliotica