To Kelly O’Connor McNees the best part of history is that it can be rewritten. Well, perhaps not rewritten, but filled in with fiction. The trick to recording history, especially in the 1800’s, is to capture the key moments. You capture the events and leave the rest to the imagination; even in historic journals there are a plethora of cracks just waiting to be filled. One such crack is the love life, or lack thereof, of Louisa May Alcott. In her latest novel, The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, McNess explores a fictional romance between Alcott and Joseph Singer. The attraction sparks when she finds out that they share a love of the recently released collection of poems by Walt Whitman called “Leaves of Grass”.
The novel is filled with quotes from Alcott’s journals, historical references, and of course romance. What this novel attempts to answer is the question of how Alcott could write a novel like “Little Women”, so filled with young love and heartbreak if she never experienced these things first hand. It’s known that Alcott burned letters and journals once she found fame to try to maintain a certain amount of privacy. When asked about her inspiration for this novel McNess mentions the burned letters, but also mentions a quote from the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s son Julian, “Did she ever have a love affair? We never knew. Yet how could a nature so imaginative, romantic, and passionate escape it?”
McNess will be reading at Barnes & Noble (1441 West Webster Ave) on April 8th at 7:30pm.