Schreiner takes a close look at the intellectual life of Concord, Mass. from 1834 to 1888, a period during which four of America's leading intellectuals called it home. Three of them-Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne-were prolific and successful writers in their own time and still rank among the most important American writers. The fourth, Amos Bronson Alcott, is best known today as the father of Louisa May, but during his lifetime he was a respected social and educational reformer, political activist, and public speaker. Schreiner works hard to bring these personalities and their dynamic relations to life, using rich detail, both in terms of Concord life and the personal and professional lives of these men, as well as in the intersection between the Concord scene and events on the national stage (like Lincoln's presidency and the debate over slavery). Although Schreiner's work is rife with dramatic episodes and compelling stories, the overall tone is academic rather than popular, and includes many excerpts from the quartet's written work with accompanying analysis. Readers unfamiliar with Hawthorne or the Transcendentalists may have difficulty taking to the book initially, but sticking with it should make any reader eager to pick up Walden next. Readers interested in American literature or American history will gain much from Schreiner's work.
Reviewed on: 07/31/2006 Release date: 08/01/2006 Genre: Nonfiction