A Strange Life: Selected Essays of Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott
Louisa May Alcott is best known as the author of Little Women. But she was also a noted essayist who wrote on a wide range of subjects, including her father’s failed utopian commune, life as a Civil War nurse and her experience as a young woman sent to work in service to alleviate her family’s poverty. Blending gentle satire with reportage and emotive biography, these essays show Alcott to be one of the sharpest wits in American literature.

Louisa May Alcott (1832–1888) was an American writer best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Raised in New England by transcendentalist parents, Alcott grew up among many well-known intellectuals of the day, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Having realized early in life that her father was too impractical to provide for his wife and four daughters and after the failure of Fruitlands, a utopian community that he had founded, Alcott’s lifelong concern became the welfare of her family. To support them she taught briefly, worked as a domestic and wrote, producing potboiler novels, at first, and many stories under pseudonyms. At the age of thirty, she volunteered as a nurse during the American Civil War but was sent home after contracting typhoid from unsanitary hospital conditions. The publication of her account of being a nurse, Hospital Sketches (1863), brought her her first taste of fame before the publication of Little Women.  

Liz Rosenberg is the author of two biographies on women authors: House of Dreams: A Biography of L. M. Montgomery and Sorrows, Scribbles and Russet Leather Boots: A Biography of Louisa May Alcott. She is a Chancellor Award-winning professor of English at the State University of New York at Binghamton, and the author of numerous prize-winning books of fiction, poetry, and works for young readers. She lives in Binghamton, New York. 

Jane Smiley is the author of many novels and works of non-fiction. Her latest novel is A Dangerous Business, a mystery set in 1850s Monterey, California, and her latest non-fiction book is The Questions that Matter Most. She writes in many genres and she won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992 for A Thousand Acres


'Lively, occasionally grim, and genuinely funny essays from a beloved author.’ Kirkus

‘This collection reveals Alcott’s excellent writing abilities with her captivating accounts, keen observations, wit, and “modern opinions” about issues still relevant today... This delightful book is highly recommended for all Alcott devotees.’ Library Journal (starred review)

‘Filled with scintillating prose and amusing stories, this persuasively makes the case that Alcott’s essays have been unjustly overlooked.’ Publishers Weekly

Subjects: Literature

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  • Author: Louisa May Alcott
  • Editor: Edited and Introduced by Liz Rosenberg; Preface by Jane Smiley
  • Publisher: Notting Hill Editions
  • ISBN: 9871912559435