cover image From Jo March's Attic: Stories of Intrigue and Suspense

From Jo March's Attic: Stories of Intrigue and Suspense

Louisa May Alcott. Northeastern University Press, $24.95 (160pp) ISBN 978-1-55553-177-5

Like the semi-autobiographical heroine of Little Women , Alcott supported herself and her family by writing potboilers. This volume is the fifth of a series to reprint the romantic thrillers she wrote anonymously; the nine tales collected here originally appeared in Frank Leslie's Lady's Magazine between 1868 and 1870, before the success of Little Women made such efforts unnecessary. They demonstrate a rich imagination that could be harnessed to popular fiction. Designed to fit the magazine's format and to please the tastes of women readers, these romantic stories foreshadowed what was to come in the literary marketplace. Alcott's darkly handsome men and ravishingly beautiful women move through plots involving sex, illicit drugs, the betrayal of trust and the lavish life of the wealthy. Virtue always wins at least a moral victory, but not before rousing melodramas have revealed the sizzling passions surging under the laces and jewels worn by Alcott's characters. While the collection is of particular interest to scholars, who will appreciate the informative introduction and bibliography, it will also appeal to anyone entranced by Alcott's novels. Illustrations not seen by PW . (Nov.)