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Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May…
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Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father (2008)

by John Matteson

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@ Louisa + Bronson Alcott
Pulitzer Prize - Winner

Louisa May Alcott is known universally. Yet during Louisa's youth, the famous Alcott was her father, Bronson, an eminent teacher and a friend of Emerson and Thoreau. He desired perfection, for the world and from his family. Louisa challenged him with her mercurial moods and yearnings for money and fame. The other prize she deeply coveted her father's understanding seemed hardest to win. This story of Bronson and Louisa's tense yet loving relationship adds dimensions to Louisa's life, her work, and the relationships of fathers and daughters.
  christinejoseph | Jun 20, 2017 |
Superb and powerful biography of LMA and her father Bronson. Best bio I have read in years. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I'm very much the right audience for this book--I read Little Women and its sequels too many times to count when I was growing up, and in fact at one point named one of my dolls Louisa May Alcott Bassham. (Between this book and My Wilder Life, the last couple of months have been a real trip down Memory Lane.)

But leaving that aside, Matteson does great work in this book. It's a dual biography of Louisa and her father Bronson (they died a mere three days apart), who are both fascinating characters. Matteson has obviously done a lot of research, but he wears it lightly. He writes well; the book was simply a joy to read. I only wish I'd read it before we visited the Alcott house a couple of years ago. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
John Matteson really did his homework. Well written and well researched. This book sent me off in pursuit of more. Bronson Alcott is an amazing man. What a treat to delve into his life and the lives of his family. There is a lot of depth to this book. It sent me off on tangents that made it hard for me to finish. Fascinating family. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
Eden's Outcasts is an outstanding double biography of Louisa May Alcott and her father, Bronson Alcott. I was very impressed at the author's balancing act for all the disparate themes touched on in subjects lives.

Matteson gives a full background and exploration of the life and influences on Bronson Alcott, and his circle of contemporary transcendentalists. For the reader who comes to this biography wanting to know more about Louisa May Alcott, this background is illuminating. But Matteson gives Bronson's life full and compelling coverage, and he never treats Bronson as only "Louisa's Father".

Having read other biographies (excellent ones) of Louisa May Alcott, I was wondering what new information this bio would provide. But Matteson's approach to Louisa's life and literary influences does explore areas which other biographers have not covered, and Matteson ties together his research and his theories into a fresh and exciting story.

Most importantly, I felt that Matteson did a wonderful job of sympathizing with his subject's human failings without becoming an apologist or providing justifications for the subject's actions. This is especially hard given the dual nature of this biography, and the fact that the two subjects were sometimes in conflict with one another. Matteson fearlessly explored places where his subjects were less than heroic. But he always did so respectfully and with an eye to a better understanding, rather than to place blame or cast judgment.

I would highly recommend this biography to anyone interested in Alcott, the Transcendentalist Philosophy, American Writers, Feminist History, or in knowing more about the author of Little Women. The writing is absolutely accessible to those outside of academia, without talking down to anyone. ( )
1 vote saraswati27 | Jun 10, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Author John Matteson won the Pulitzer Prize for this book, and deservedly so. The depth and scope of his research is admirable.
added by Shortride | editPopmatters, Diane Leach (Feb 3, 2009)
 
A double biography is a difficult thing to bring off but Matteson does it beautifully, giving a vivid but delicate account of two complicated characters inextricably entwined.
 
Matteson tells his story so clearly and attractively that no previous acquaintance with the remarkable Alcott clan and their various, equally remarkable friends is needed to relish their world as he re-creates it.
 
In "Eden's Outcasts," Matteson pays assiduous attention to detail (over a thousand footnotes!) and offers perceptive literary critiques. Nonetheless, this book should have appeal beyond academia. Bronson Alcott and Louisa May Alcott may be larger-than-life personas in the history of American letters, but this engaging dual biography points out how thoroughly human they were.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0393333590, Paperback)

"An amazing story [told] with clarity and intelligence ... colorful and insightful."—Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Times

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography 

Louisa May Alcott is known universally. Yet during Louisa's youth, the famous Alcott was her father, Bronson—an eminent teacher and a friend of Emerson and Thoreau. He desired perfection, for the world and from his family. Louisa challenged him with her mercurial moods and yearnings for money and fame. The other prize she deeply coveted—her father's understanding—seemed hardest to win. This story of Bronson and Louisa's tense yet loving relationship adds dimensions to Louisa's life, her work, and the relationships of fathers and daughters.

26 illustrations

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:26 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

The beloved author of Little Women was torn between pleasing her idealistic father and planting her feet in the material world. Now, Louisa May Alcott's name is known universally; yet, during her youth, the famous Alcott was her father, Bronson--an eminent teacher, lecturer, and friend of Emerson and Thoreau. Willful and exuberant, Louisa flew in the face of all her father's theories of child rearing. She, in turn, could not understand the frugal life Bronson preached, which reached its epitome in the failed utopian community of Fruitlands. In a family that insisted on self-denial and spiritual striving, Louisa dreamed of wealth and fame. At the same time, like most daughters, she wanted her father's approval. This story of their tense yet loving relationship adds dimensions to Louisa's life, her work, and the relationships of fathers and daughters.--From publisher description.… (more)

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393059642, 0393333590

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