The Other Alcott

Written by Elise Hooper

In Elise Hooper’s debut novel, she takes on the daunting task of re-imagining a woman who was fictionalized in Louisa May Alcott’s much-beloved novel Little Women. Rather than focus on Louisa herself—the real-life model for “Jo,” almost everyone’s favorite March sister—Hooper decides to let us in on what happens to May Alcott, Louisa’s younger sister, who appeared in her novel as “Amy.”

Just as Amy was depicted in Little Women, May is an artist, interested in what is stylish. She longs to live on her own terms, rather than in her big sister Louisa’s shadow. Hooper examines the sibling rivalry between Louisa and May, and the reader discovers a very new view of Louisa, a view not nearly as flattering as the one found in Little Women.

Unknown to some, May did the illustrations for the original novel and, though the book itself was highly praised, the illustrations were roundly panned. In The Other Alcott, this public scolding of her talents sends May to Rome, London, and Paris in search of finding an art teacher to help her improve her abilities. Along the way, she discovers much about her own nature, friendship and, finally, love. And by the end of her journey, she has come to understand her big sister a little as well.

A fascinating concept, and just the way to kick off your celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Little Women.