Louisa May Alcott and Eve Curie

Last month, Sisters in Crime posed this topic for a blog hop: Which authors have inspired you?

My answer: Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888) and Eve Curie (1904-2007), two authors who may seem to have nothing in common, but have inspired me in ways none have since.

Louisa May Alcott at 25; LW was published when she was 36.

Louisa May Alcott at 25; LW was published when she was 36.

Little Women was the first and only book I read that wasn’t a schoolbook, until I was in college. Reading was discouraged in my home environment unless it was to ensure a good grade. I’m not even sure how I happened upon a copy.

Whatever critics or scholars have said is the theme/message/quest of Little Women, Alcott taught me that words and stories could move the reader to emotion as surely as a real-life drama.

I’m sure I wasn’t the first to dissolve into tears at Beth’s death, or to root for Jo as if she were my real-life friend. It’s strange to me now that I didn’t learn from that experience, that other books might be similarly rewarding.

Several years later, I was in college and came across a biography of Marie Curie in the science library. It was written by her younger daughter, Eve (the daughter who was not a radiation scientist, and lived to 103!). Eve’s book became the second book I read that wasn’t a schoolbook.

Random pages of MC, written when Eve was 33.

Random pages of MC, written when Eve was 33.

In Madame Curie, Eve Curie gave us her mother’s story, in words, without equations, and I found it fascinating. So what if she included only the most flattering, romantic picture of her parents and their life in the laboratory. There would be many other biographies to give a more complete picture.

This second “unrequired reading” set me on the path, finally, to seek other stories.

Louisa May Alcott and Eve Curie taught me that books could provide not only information, but also interesting stories, and valuable emotional connections.

Only a few decades later, I decided to try writing my own. After more than twenty, I’m still trying to write one like Little Women or Madame Curie.



6 Responses

  1. Little Women wasn’t the first book I read, by any means, nor was it close to my last. I was omniverous when it came to books. But I, too, loved Little Women — I went on to read the whole 8-book Orchard House series multi times (I can still quote from Little Women) and then, when I was thirty, I adopted the first of my four daughters. Yes, girls, like in Little Women. And, yes, older children, like in Jo’s Boys. I didn’t realize the connection right away — but when I did, I started smiling. I still do.

  2. That’s a beautiful story, Lea! How lucky those girls are. And I’m sure you didn’t ban reading in their young lives!

  3. This is incredible, Camille–I woke up the other night thinking about Alcott! I ordered LW, haven’t read it in a million years, and also a mystery she wrote. Amazing when that kind of thing happens.

  4. Must be something in the air, Shelley. I must check out her mystery! Thanks.

  5. How sad, Camille, that reading was discouraged in your childhood! Well, you’ve undoubtedly made up for that loss now. I can easily imagine your deep pleasure at reading Little Women, Eight Cousins, et al. I loved them, too–especially Jo, whom I wanted to “become!” But couldn’t, not stuck in a girl’s boarding school as I was, for five long years. And I read Madame Curie, too–this time, I recall, from a school reading list. I read and read, even Life Begins at 40 which my mother was (hopefully)reading,and a little later, Gone with the Wind. How thrilling that was! So many wonderful books and for the first time. Reading is fun, but can’t compare for that first enthralling identification with a character in a book.

    • GWTW was another “early” favorite of mine, Nancy! You’re right that I’ve managed to “catch up” a little and am surrounded by books. But even now, when I read in the middle of day, e.g., I hear those words, “Get off your &^% and do something useful!” Now, I say, “I am!”

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