Today I’ve been reading more from Eden’s Outcasts: the story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father. At long last, as I have been reading this book for ages, I have arrived at the time of Louisa’s life where she has written and published Little Women. Up to this point (about 60% of the book) most of it has been about Bronson Alcott, her father and it is Louisa who I find most interesting.
Louisa wrote in vortices – completely engrossed in her writing, with barely time for anything else, so intense was her concentration. Mostly she wrote in her bedroom at a desk Bronson had built for her, but sometimes she sat on the parlour sofa. Her family knew that if the bolster pillow next to her stood on its end they could speak to her, but if the pillow lay on its side they couldn’t disturb her. In two and a half months she had completed writing 402 manuscript pages and at the end of it she had briefly broken down.
Little Women was an instant success, the first printing of 2,000 copies sold out within days of the book’s release and another 4,500 copies were in print by the end of the year (1868). Three months later she had written the second part of Little Women – the book I know as Good Wives. She had
… plunged back into a creative cortex on November 1, vowing to write a chapter a day. She worked ‘like a steam engine’, taking a daily run as her only recreation and barely stopping to eat or sleep. Falling behind the ambitious schedule she had set for herself, she spent her birthday alone’writing hard.’ (page 345)
She put her heart and soul into her writing.
Both Louisa and her father were complex characters and Matteson’s biography is detailed and in depth. It’s not a quick read, but then biographies never are in my experience.