I checked this book out of my local library as I am a Louisa May Alcott and "Little Women" fan. I found this compilation of her letters to be very interesting. They are more or less in chronological order with the last letter she ever wrote being the final entry. It is a slow read, albeit an enjoyable one, as her letters are rich in detail. And in these letters we see her development from a young sixteen year old who wishes to make a living in order to help out her family to an older lady who adopts her nephew in order to give him her copyrights. Her Father was revered in the family but his lack of money earning skills affected them severely. And so Louisa May Alcott sought to remedy the situation and prove that an Alcott could earn a living. Things are quite rough for her, but she works hard at making a living with her pen. Her book "Hospital Sketches" seems to have been her first real breakthrough and she based it on her two month stint as a War Between the States nurse. She is an astute observer of her era, even cynical at times. Once she publishes "Little Women" and her health particularly begins to trouble her, she loses the kindness that shines through in her earlier letters. Although, she unselfishly took care of her family all the way to the end.
There are a couple of things that really stand out in these letters, one is where she writes Alfred Whitman and tells him that he and her Polish boy where jointly the inspiration for Laurie in "Little Women." Much later in another letter she mocks this idea which is somewhat perplexing. Another point where she contradicts herself is concerning her sister's wedding in Europe. In one letter she goes into detail how no one in the family had any inkling her sister was going to get married, but then later she criticizes the gossip columns for saying they had no forewarning of the event and she even goes so far as to claim that they did.
I enjoyed her support of women's suffrage. Especially the comment that "I, for one, don't want to be ranked among idiots, felons, and minors any longer, for I am none of the three, but very gratefully yours, L.M.A." Lots of pictures are included in the book (at least in mine which is a hard cover version) and the editors have included plenty of footnotes to where there is no risk of confusion when names are mentioned.
Curiously enough, one thing that become quite clear through these letters is the disdain Louisa May Alcott felt towards "Little Women." I believe I'm safe in saying that "Little Women" is the book for which she is remembered today, but she really seems to have just held it in little if any regard. She goes into detail how she made up the love story for Jo with the German Professor primarily just to irk the fans who wanted so desperately for Jo to marry Laurie. The curious love story makes the point about Jo's intellectualism so I won't argue that decision with her, but her motive for it is a little antagonistic as she wrote to make a living and "Little Women" enabled her to make said living.
In conclusion, I enjoyed reading the book very much. The letters are interesting on many levels some of which are to gain insight into Louisa May Alcott's mind as an author, to learn about the time period, to see what it was like for an independent minded woman at this time, and to learn about American customs and culture such as the heavy emphasis on plays and histrionics back then. It is a definite five out of five stars book.