Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) was an American author. She wrote many books the most famous of which was Little Women. The first book of hers which I read was An Old Fashioned Girl. Simply put, I loved it. I was 14 when I first read it, and the romance between Polly and Tom was heart-rending for me. Now, re-reading it, I still enjoy it. The characters are all slightly idealistic, and Louisa Alcott often preaches and moralizes in her novels, but the softness and warmth with which she does it touches your heart. The world may be one that never existed, but you feel like it should be cherished nevertheless.
When I read an author I like, I become bent on a mission to read all the books they ever wrote. Well, with Louisa May Alcott I pursued that mission and read many of her books (including the Little Women series that has 4 novels). She also published under the name A. M. Bernard, books such A Long Fatal Love Chase, which I still have to read. Eight Cousins and Rose in Bloom are my favorite books by Louisa May Alcott.
As her birthday is coming up I decided to finish The Portable Louisa May Alcott that I had started quite a while ago. It contains some of her short stories, some novellas and parts of her other novels and plays. Moods is contained in full in the book with changes made from the text that was first published. This version is the unedited original version which Louisa May Alcott had intended to be published. My next post will be a review on the book.
Now anybody that follows my blog or me on Twitter should know that I am huge L. M. Montgomery fan; practically a fanatic. Up to date, only one book of hers remains unread by me (A Tangled Web) and some of her short stories. Some day, I hope to have a collection of all of her books.
The first book I read was the famous Anne of Green Gables, but skipping that experience I want to go straight on ahead to when I read Emily of New Moon and its sequels. I can’t tell you how much reading those books meant to me. I’ve re-read them more times then I can count; the first book has become worn and is falling apart, but I can never part with it. As I’ve already written about L. M. Montgomery numerous times, and have reviewed some of her best books, I won’t begin again here (you can see all my posts on the author HERE and the writer’s page for more information).
The two authors have obvious differences. For one, Lucy Montgomery wrote mostly children’s literature whereas Louisa Alcott dabbled more in young adult. Yet, in my opinion, the styles of both were somewhat similar. They both had this idealistic vision of life, a reality in which good was dominant and all the characters see the beauty in life. To strive towards being ‘good’ is the focus point of both artists and something most of their characters eventually achieve.
Louisa May Alcott, it is true, showed the temptations in life more, and the battle which some characters faced (hence her novels are more young adult). She was also more religious in her novels than Montgomery. Montgomery on the other hand never actually showed the bad side of human nature, and even her tragedies were beautified with a sort of light (the death of Judy Plum in Pat of Silver Bush is sad, but not depressing). Louisa May Alcott showed tragedy, and made us feel it along with the character (Beth’s death in Good Wives, and some of the scenes in Moods are extremely heart-rending). Both great writers.
In Behind a Mask Louisa May Alcott takes a turn from her usual style. Known for writing the light family drama Little Women, Behind a Mask glimpses towards the darker side. The characters all seem charming in the beginning but we are left wondering how an author who can create such good characters as Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy March can create a Jean Muir.
Louisa May Alcott, in her novels, focused a lot on morals. Her heroines are strong-minded young woman who, at the same time are feminine. Jean Muir, a governess, is at first shown as a meek, misunderstood girl of 18 – but she is not what she seems. She quickly instigates herself into the family, worming her way into the hearts of all the occupants. Even the most mistrusting soon succumb to her unique charm. Is she what she seems? Or does she have a dark purpose behind all that she does? What is behind the sweet, misunderstood mask of Jean Muir? Lucia, the fiance of the master of the house, has enough womanly instincts to see past Jean Muir’s feminine wiles, but she lacks the scrutiny and cleverness of Jean Muir. She knows something is wrong but does not have enough insight into the matter, or quickness to do anything about it. Instead, she plays right into Jean’s hands and becomes a catalyst for the inevitable reaction.
I really enjoyed reading Behind a Mask. I have always loved Louisa May Alcott’s writing style and after reading this novel, I like her character portrayal even more. It was refreshing to see another side of human nature and to see how the less fortunate members of society may act. Set in England, the book appeals to me even more; especially since I love books set during the Victorian Era!