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Little Women Abroad The Alcott Sisters' Letters from Europe 1870-1871

The prolonged visit to Europe was a rite of passage for well-educated and well-to-do Americans, and the numbers undertaking it swelled after the Civil War. A voluminous literature of reportage resulted. After Louisa, then thirty-eight and celebrated as the author of Little Women (1868), made a visit with her sister May in 1870-71, she used their letters as the basis for a well-informed report, published in 1872 as Aunt Jo’s Scrap-Bag, Volume 2: Shawl Straps. Louisa burned the letters in 1885; fortunately Bronson Alcott had made copies. Thus, Daniel Shealy, a seasoned Alcott specialist, has been able to give us this unusual primary account, enhanced by seventy-eight illustrations; of them forty (mainly travel scenes) are by May Alcott, a trained and accomplished artist.

The sisters’ letters are a delight; they had splendid introductions, met many notables, and were fueled by curiosity. Their journey through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and Belgium, ending in London, was not without incident. The Franco-Prussian War, floods in Rome, and smallpox on board ship meant the journey was not the rest-cure that Louisa, the overworked novelist, had expected.

Reviewed by Peter Skinner

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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