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After recently reading Harriet Reisen’s biography on Louisa May Alcott (Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women), I’m a little at a loss as to whether or not I should believe every little fact in the story to be true. It bothers me when biographers, who are supposedly experts on their subject, mess up on details that the average fan would get right. What was the little detail that has me shaking my head? Reisen mentions, somewhat in passing, that in one of Alcott’s later books about the March sisters, Jo is married and has two children – twins, Daisy and Demi. She did get the number of children right, but not the names or the sexes. Jo has two boys in Little Men: Rob and Teddy. Meg, on the other hand, has twins named…yes, you guessed it, Daisy and Demi. Honestly, is it really so hard for a biographer to get facts about a famous author’s books straight?!

It’s funny, because it reminded me of a journal entry I wrote over a year ago after re-reading Little Women for the hundredth time. Out of curiousity, I read the afterword and ran into a similar, embarassing error involving, again, the children. Poor kids. Who knew that they were so hard for biographers to keep straight?!

October 2008
I’ve been reading Little Women for probably the hundredth time….

The copy that I am presently reading is a nice sturdy hard cover book that I picked up for a few dollars at a thrift store; it’s a Reader’s Digest version with some of the most hideous illustrations, but it doesn’t take a bit away from the story. As with most Reader’s Digest re-publications, there’s the typical ‘feminist’ after-word in which some editor waxed on quite eloquently about how Louisa May Alcott didn’t want Jo to marry, etc, and it was all the EVUHL publisher’s fault, etc… and finished with: “Later, with more money and celebrity behind her, she did give her heroines greater scope. In Jo’s Boys, Meg’s daughter pursues a successful career as a doctor, and Amy’s daughter gains some fame as an actress before becoming a wife.”

I laughed when I read that, because in spite of the editor’s attempts to portray herself as an expert on Louisa May Alcott, she proves herself decidedly the opposite. While Jo’s Boys is not my favorite of Louisa May Alcott’s novels, I have read it more than once and know that Meg’s youngest daughter is the one who becomes an actress, not a doctor; Nan, another pupil at Jo’s school, becomes a doctor, but she is not at all related to the March family! And Amy’s daughter? She never enters the arena of controversial careers; instead, takes after Amy’s artistic talents. I know it seems like the silliest, smallest trifle to grasp onto, but I couldn’t help but notice and snort at it! If someone is trying to make people think that she knows all about Louisa May Alcott and what she thought and all that, she really should have a decent knowledge about the author’s novels and characters!

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