Compiled and edited in 1889 by Ednah Cheney, this book offers an interesting look into the life of Louisa May Alcott. Cheney intersperses the letters and journal entries with some biographical information. The Alcotts were very poor and lived off the money Louisa made from her writing; Alcott keeps track of how much money she gets for each story, even after the success of "Little Women". Unfortunately, the amount of time she spent writing (up to 14 hours a day), plus the illness she caught after nursing civil war soldiers took a toll on her and many of her letters, plus many of the journal entries mention her various illnesses and describe how she had to take morphine to help her sleep.
Fans of "Little Women" will be most interested in the segments regarding that book and may be surprised to find out that Alcott thought the book was boring. It's hard to believe she really meant that because it's clear from her letters and journal entries how very biographical "Little Women" is. In fact, Alcott's journal description of Beth's death in real life is used almost word for word in the book. Other elements in "Little Women" are fiction (there was, alas, no real life Professor Bhaer and Alcott included him against her better judgement - she would have preferred Jo remain single, as Alcott herself did) and Teddy was based on a Polish acquaintance, not a next door neighbor. However, the four sisters are based on Louisa and her sisters and the journal entries and letters make you realize how perfectly she caught them on paper.
This is an interesting book about not only a fascinating woman but also a fascinating family. The Alcotts' friends included the Emersons, the Thoreaus and the Hawthornes, all whose influences helped shape Louisa May Alcott's writings. Despite her success, her life was not an easy one and was often filled with sorrow. Yet, despite her sorrow and illnesses, Louise May Alcott's works enchanted children then and now.