AudioBook Review: Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante

Who didn’t dream along with Jo and cry over Meg: worry when the girls were struggling with their father’s absence, and want to create plays, newspapers and playtimes like the March girls?  Today I have a beautiful AudioBook that tells much about Louisa May Alcott and the relationship she had with her staunchest supporter, her mother, the “Marmee” of Little Women.  

AudioBook Review:

One element that always struck me when I read Little Women was the lack, or adjunct roles that the men play in the story. Sure, there is Lorrie, and the oft-absent father, but the sense that the men were little more than window dressing and diversions held with me throughout every reading.  For it was Marmee who kept the story moving, the touchstone and steady forward moving element that the girls all looked to for comfort, approval and security. 

While other biographies of Alcott mention her mother, Abagail in passing, all see her as a mere stopgap: relegated to the obscurity that history and custom provided women, mentioning birthdate, marriage and death, with little filler in between.  All mentions of her had noted the destruction of her personal papers and letters by her husband and children, as per her request.

Eve LaPlante, a relation of Louisa May Alcott, found a long-forgotten trunk of papers that illuminate Abagail May Alcott, and shows her determination to ignore and rise above the societal constraints to become a stalwart supporter and encouragement for her daughters.
Thought to be the superior intellect when contrasted with her husband, her lack of formal education may have contributed to her relegation, but LaPlante has given us an impeccably researched volume, intertwining relatives and history in the context of the day to present a life.

Alcott uses many of the stories that were shared from and with her mother in her works: passages in Abagail’s hand show a clear and concise writing style, evocative and logical, while presenting her points with conviction and humor.  Her unconditional support of her girls, and the refusal to allow them to ascribe to society’s notion of their place and the ‘correct’ amount of necessary education and interests they should have, her own intellectual curiosity was fueled by her brother Samuel, an early abolitionist and a strong believer in woman’s rights.

Narration in this book is provided by Karen White, and I will admit that I am a fan of her narrative style. White treats the words with respect, using appropriate emotive emphasis to highlight passages from letters and journals that convey the emotion behind the words, without overly dramatizing the moments.  Frustration, concern, elation and love are clearly apparent, yet do not overshadow or distract.

LaPlante has created a story that will present all writing from Louisa May Alcott into a new perspective, and presented a life history that was previously lost to those who believe that strong women and the idea of feminism is a concept from the 1960’s.

Stars:  Overall:  5  Narration:  5  Story:  5


AudioBook Review: Marmee and Louisa: The Untold Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Mother by Eve LaPlante

Title: Marmee and Louisa
Author: Eve LaPlante
Genre: Biography / Memoir
Narrator: Karen White
Published by: Tantor Audio
Source: Audio Producer
Pages: 384
Audio Length: 14 Hours: 34 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon AllRomance iTunes Kobo IndieBound Book Depository AudibleDirect from Publisher
See this Title on Goodreads

Marmee & Louisa, hailed by NPR as one of the best books of 2012, paints an exquisitely moving and utterly convincing portrait of Louisa May Alcott and her mother, the real Marmee. Award-winning biographer Eve LaPlante mines the Alcotts' intimate diaries and other private papers, some recently discovered in a family attic and others thought to have been destroyed, to revive this remarkable daughter and mother.

Abigail May Alcott, long dismissed as a quiet, self-effacing background figure, comes to life as a gifted writer and thinker. A politically active feminist firebrand, she fought for universal civil rights, an end to slavery, and women's suffrage. This gorgeously written story of two extraordinary women is guaranteed to transform our view and deepen our understanding of one of America's most beloved authors.

A copy of this title was provided via Audio Producer for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

About Eve LaPlante

A New Englander with degrees from Princeton and Harvard, LaPlante has published articles, essays, and five nonfiction books. Seized is a narrative portrait of a common brain disorder that can alter personality, illuminating the mind-body problem and the limits of free will. American Jezebel tells the true story of LaPlante’s ancestor the colonial heretic and founding mother Anne Hutchinson. LaPlante’s second ancestor biography, Salem Witch Judge, about the 1692 judge who became an abolitionist and feminist, won the 2008 Massachusetts Book Award for Nonfiction. Her latest books — Marmee & Louisa, a groundbreaking biography of Louisa May Alcott and her mother, and My Heart Is Boundless, the first compilation of the writings of Abigail May Alcott — came out in 2012. Marmee & Louisa, named a top ten book of the year by NPR, has just been released in paperback.

LaPlante’s biographies “have been praised as reminiscent of a more celebratory Nathaniel Hawthorne,” according to the Boston Book Festival. In the anthology Boston, which includes the preface to LaPlante's American Jezebel, Shaun O’Connell observed, “Just as Nathaniel Hawthorne dug into the dark history of his ancestry, which reached back both to the original Boston settlement of the 1630s and the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s, so too did LaPlante trace family members who were rooted in the same eras ... Hawthorne took shame upon himself for the misdeeds of his Puritan ancestors, and LaPlante offers praise for her forebears who testified against Puritan repression. As her prefaces to these biographies, a kind of spiritual autobiography, show, Anne Hutchinson and Samuel Sewall were not the dark Puritans many imagined them to be. They remain living presences, even models of rectitude, into the twenty-first century.”

LaPlante, a cousin of Louisa May Alcott and a great-niece of Abigail May Alcott, resides in New England with her husband and four children.

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