If you know me personally, you know I did NOT like “Fifty Shades of Grey”. I never reviewed it because I didn’t finish it (made it about 2/3 through). Anyhow — a friend jokingly suggested I read “Fifty Shades of Louisa May”, and I never gave it a thought until the other day when I was pondering how Fifty Shades was still on the NYT best seller list. Louisa May popped into my head and since it was less than $10 on Kindle, I bought it.
First, let me say I did not know what to expect with this book. If you know me, you know my passion for all things Alcott and that I hobnob with Alcott scholars and run around in a hoop skirt at the museum and just love, love, love that whole family. I was feeling a bit sensitive, for want of a better word, that someone might be maligning my beloved Alcotts. I have to say how surprised I was at how much I enjoyed this truly ridiculous read. First, if you think it’s like the original Fifty Shades, you are off the mark. It’s more of a satire on the time period of the Alcotts, Transcendentalism, and the social mores that held in New England in the 1800’s. It’s erotica that makes fun of erotica. I’m not a huge fan of erotica (to me, some things should just be left behind closed doors – or book covers, for that matter); but L M Anonymous (who claims to be Louisa’s spirit) writes in the voice and style of Louisa’s work (kudos to you for that, sir/madam!) and portrays the main players (Louisa, her sisters, her parents, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, even Melville) in caricature. Whoever wrote this book knows a LOT about these people and these places, and I have to wonder who is the real author. Someone I know? One of the Alcott scholars? I think not as there are a few minor factual errors that a true Alcott scholar would not make. But the level of detail included that is correct (e.g. what Louisa dreamed about when ill from typhoid fever; the true personalities of the main players) is there, so it’s definitely someone who has read extensively on the family and their friends. The best part of the book for me was trying to figure out who wrote it!
Now I can imagine that some folks would not “get” this book. Alcott lovers, like myself, could be offended (when you study great minds, you often overlook their sexuality). Those who want a read like Fifty Shades will most probably be disappointed. I can’t say I recommend this book – erotica is just not my thing and I generally don’t recommend books with graphic sexual content – however, if you are a lover of this time period and can imagine ridiculous scenarios (e.g. Melville playing peeping Tom to Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne; Louisa on a quest to lose her virginity) then you might enjoy it. I laughed out loud through much of it and read it in a few hours.