1934: Invincible Louisa


Sally’s Rating: 1/5

Invincible Louisa is a biography of the life and times of Little Women author Louisa May Alcott. From the year Louisa is born through her tumultuous years in the Civil War to the final days before her death, author Cornelia Meigs lays out every single detail of Louisa’s life in excruciating detail.

It was hard to get invested in Louisa’s character, since Invincible Louisa is told from the viewpoint of an outsider looking in. The book makes the mistake in telling, not showing, the details of her life. While “telling” can be informative, the author doesn’t realize how vital “showing” is to create an effective story with a compelling heroine. Take this example:

“No one will ever know how hard for Louisa were those first years of making her way alone. Excessive shyness is not the best equipment for facing a strange and unreceptive world, in which the struggle for a living is already overcrowded. Louisa was not only shy, but she was very sensitive, as all creative persons must be. To offset such handicaps she had only courage, unquenchable courage, which could usually laugh at hurt feelings and discomfitures and always rose from a fall to try again.” (p. 105)

Instead, the writing lacks a vividness that would make the book come alive. It’s not necessary to spoon-feed readers the exact feelings Louisa should be feeling. Subtlety could have improved the book.

Additionally, the author seemingly viewed Louisa through rose-tinted glasses, admiring and complimenting her courage at every opportunity. This results in a very repetitive and unimaginative book that repeatedly uses the same overwrought descriptions of Louisa’s indomitable spirit throughout the worst years of her life. It’s impossible to get a good look into Louisa’s mindset with the dramatic and complimentary language that is being used.

Surprisingly, the book doesn’t cover much of the writing process for her most popular novels. Much of the book covers her family history and the relationships she had with her parents and sisters, which is hard to get invested in because dialogue is practically nonexistent. In my opinion, this book would have been more interesting if the author had delved into Louisa’s thought process while writing or focused on only one part of her life.

Overall, this book was a depressing look into Louisa’s life – especially the parts focusing on her family history. Invincible Louisa lacks the dynamic characters necessary to make this book a page turner and falls victim to its detailed biographic style.


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