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Invincible Louisa
by Cornelia Meigs | Teens
Registered by wingelizardbreathwing of Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on 2/3/2008
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status (set by Annelis): to be read

5 journalers for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingelizardbreathwing from Bella Vista, Arkansas USA on Sunday, February 03, 2008

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I found this book today at Pendleton Book Company in Pendleton, OR, USA. 

Journal Entry 2 by wingelizardbreathwing at Pendleton, Oregon USA on Wednesday, November 09, 2011

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Released 6 yrs ago (11/8/2011 UTC) at Pendleton, Oregon USA


Sending to harmaja who has this Newberry Medal Award-winning book on her wishlist! I hope you enjoy the story and thank you SO much for blessing me this year with all of the beautiful vintage lace!! 

Journal Entry 3 by harmaja at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Monday, November 21, 2011

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Thank you so much for this lovely HGG-surprise, elizardbreath! It's one of the Newbery Medal winners I've been wanting to read for a long time! (I'm trying to read them all.) So lovely to receive it as an early Christmas gift! 

Journal Entry 4 by harmaja at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, December 04, 2011

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I'm super happy I got to read Invincible Louisa, because I have so few Newbery Medal books left to read, and I'm glad I'm nearing the end of the challenge! However, Louisa May Alcott's biography wasn't a great literary feat in itself. I was suspecting that as soon as I knew the suspect matter: it seems to me that often the Newbery Medal has been awarded to a children's book that's deemed to be "educational", never mind the literary merits. It's been the case with several other Newbery winners that detail the life of some historical person, and alas, it was the case with Invincible Louisa.

The classic piece of advice for writers is: "Show, don't tell!" This is one of the main things where Meigs fails. She describes - in a rather dull prose - what Louisa does and how Louisa feels. Very rarely will she actually describe a scene out of her life, letting the reader deduce some things for themselves. Maybe the author felt that she's not allowed to take such liberties with a biography: however, from the LitCrit point of view all biography is invention anyway, so she might as well improvised a bit more. Besides, the author is not really hiding her moralistic attitudes and value judgments, so it's not like she's trying to be as impartial as possible. I wish she'd at least used more of the excerpts from Louisa's own diaries, to liven the narrative up here and there.

I also had the feeling that the author is not really being honest with her readers. A biographer must of course pick and choose which things to include in a biographical novel, and this one is written mainly for kids, so that's another consideration. But still, I felt like a lot of aspects of Louisa's life were either purposefully hidden, or their importance was played down in a very crude way.

To give an example: somewhere near the very end of the book, the author reveals that Louisa did in fact have quite a few suitors. It would have been nice to be told of these suitors when they actually came calling around, and not just as a quick mention towards the end of the book. And Louisa's relationship with "Laurie" was definitely a romantic one, at least according to the modern-day biographers - and if Louisa's diaries were available in the 1930's, I'd suppose it would have been known then as well. Meigs likes to stress that there was nothing physical in between Louisa and "Laurie", and it doesn't seem probable that she could have actually believed this herself. She probably just felt she needed to portray her heroine as a virgin to the end, this being a children's book.

(I'm not expecting that details if Louisa's love life should be detailed in a children's book! I just hate getting the feeling that the author is being deliberately dishonest.)

I also found it strange that Louisa's feminism was not given more attention in the text. Bronson Alcott's socialism the author finds downright embarrassing, and she keeps apologizing for the man. She praises his ideas about education, but when it comes to communal living and shared property etc. she likes to portray him as being tragically wrong. To me it seems like the Fruitlands Utopia failed for the lack of funds, not because the concept itself was flawed. Friends of the Alcott family certainly did go on to continue living in similar communities; the author acknowledges that, but still implies that communal living was just a silly mistake from Bronson Alcott's part. Again, this is a children's book, so she probably felt like she had to take an explicit stand against anything smacking of communism...

In some aspects the novel is simply incongruent. For example, in his youth Bronson Alcott is described to work as a travelling salesman, and (according to Meigs) he is a natural salesman: he both enjoys the job, and can make a living out of it. However, towards the end of the book, Bronson Alcott is described as a person who has no gift for any profession whatsoever (except for lecturing), and that he would be hopeless at any sort of sales job. That just doesn't seem likely, given that he was a natural salesman in the beginning of the book!

All in all, the classist attitudes of this novel are the most obvious when it comes to the question of working. Although the Alcott family is dirt poor, they're still a "good" family, the kind of family where the members ideally don't expect to work at all. Louisa's "bravery" (the central theme of the book) actually boils down to the fact that she must work for her living, and to provide for her family as well.

Now, first of all: if someone is in a dire financial need, then working for one's living is not really an especially brave thing to do, it's just a necessity. And secondly: if Louisa were a working-class person, working for living would be just a given thing, and nothing very special. The only reason Louisa is "brave" is her class: she wasn't born in a working-class family, so in the "natural" order of things, she shouldn't have to work outside the home. Not much is made of the fact that Louisa's other sisters seem to work outside the home as well, everyone according to their strengths and abilities.

The thing is, Louisa doesn't even seem to be very consistent in her desire to help out the family. She certainly doesn't last too long in the jobs she takes. Once she is hired to help in a house, and she thinks she's going to be some sort of lady-in-waiting. It turns out she will actually work as a parlour maid - although she declines to do that. Blackening the master's shoes is below her, for example. She leaves the job, and gets paid four dollars. This makes her absolutely humiliated and devastated.

OK, Louisa may have been cheated to think the job was better than it turned out to be. But what I was left wondering was, was four dollars perhaps a proper wage for a parlour maid, if not for a lady-in-waiting? I have no idea how valuable four dollars were at that time, and the author doesn't help here. It would have been useful to know if the wages were really too small for anyone working in that position, or if it's just the classist attitude again: maybe the wages were too low for Louisa, because she was from a good family.

I think I've gone on for long enough. Invincible Louisa wasn't a biography I enjoyed, that much is clear. Maybe it's because I do find Louisa May Alcott an interesting historical person, and I would actually like to read a good, honest, more direct biography of her. However, I really am grateful for getting my hands on this book, because I've been looking for it, and haven't been able to find it in second-hand shops so far. Now I'll pass it in to other readers - I know others are reading Newbery winners, and surely will want to read this one as well!

Thanks again elizardbreath, and sorry I couldn't like this novel more! 

Journal Entry 5 by harmaja at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, December 18, 2011

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Released 6 yrs ago (12/18/2011 UTC) at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland


I left this book in the pre-Christmas meet-up. Hopefully it has found a reader! 

Journal Entry 6 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, December 18, 2011

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I've never heard of Newbery Winners, but I loved Little Women and all the rest of them as a child and I had ""Eden's outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father" on my wishlist, so I was happy to find this book at a meeting. Having read Harmaja's critique I'm a little less thrilled, but I'll give the book a fair trial... 

Journal Entry 7 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Thursday, March 08, 2012

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I don't trust mental notes anymore: This book is reserved in case somebody chooses it by its first sentence in the "Lauseen mitalla" -game. I do have to read it first... 

Journal Entry 8 by wingkirjakkowing at Helsinki, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Friday, April 20, 2012

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Finished! Funnily enough I wouldn't have realized that this was a children's book if you guys hadn't mentioned it. It was less explained than children's books in general, although it was rather boring until Louisa went to work as a nurse. Much too much time went to telling what her father did when young and then her parents - this was supposed to be a book about Louisa. I actually read the title "Invisible Louisa" and thought it rather odd that this person, who was supposed to be the model of Jo, could be invisible...

Harmaja mentioned the same thing which annoyed me - howcome a gifted young salesman becomes totally hopeless in all business affairs??

I guess I will take off the book about Louisa and her father from my wishlist as I'm quite fed up with Bronson Alcott. By the way, I had always thought that Louisa May were her first names and Alcott a family name, but it now turned out that I had put her in the wrong place in my bookshelf for all these years - she should be placed under M from now on.

Off to Annimanni next. 

Journal Entry 9 by wingkirjakkowing at Tampere, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland on Wednesday, June 06, 2012

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Released 6 yrs ago (6/10/2012 UTC) at Tampere, Pirkanmaa / Birkaland Finland


Annimanni from Espoo and I from Helsinki have to travel all the way to Tampere to finally meet. Louisa will exchange hands at the BC Summer Meeting. 

Journal Entry 10 by wingAnnimanniwing at Espoo, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, June 10, 2012

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Thanks very much! 

Journal Entry 11 by wingAnneliswing at Kerava, Uusimaa / Nyland Finland on Sunday, November 13, 2016

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Thanks for the book, kind Bookcrossers! 

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