“Beauty in the humblest things” was the theme of this year’s Conversations at Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House. I was able to be there only yesterday for conversations that take up most of a week, but I left, as one often leaves that Concord neighborhood, refreshed from being around not only Alcott devotees, but people who carry a sense of what makes life good. Here is historian Kristi Martin, who spoke about the sacred domestic and literary imagination, standing with her sister on the left. (And a copy of one of May Alcott’s portraits in the background.)
When Jan Turnquist, executive director of Orchard House, speaking as Louisa May Alcott referred to Little Women, the whole room chimed in on the novel’s first line: “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” It was a lovely chorus, and fun to hear this Louisa speak of her other less-well-known works.
Gabrielle Donnelly also evoked the warm parlor and sisterly connection as she compared the March family to Jane Austen’s Bennett clan. Later in her talk, she mentioned Mr. Bhaer’s proposal, in which he and Jo huddled under one umbrella, sheltered as the girls had been in Little Women’s first chapter. There’s a lot of such warmth in Gabrielle’s books, too. I hope you’ll read her novel, The Little Women Letters.
It was great to listen to talks and also just chat together near the old Concord house. Remembering, teasing, digressing – we felt among family.
Here are Gabrielle Donnelly, me, author Susan Bailey, who blogs at Louisa May is My Passion, and Kristi Martin.
I’m standing shut-eyed between Professor Anne-Laure François, Lis Adams, education director at Orchard House, Gabrielle, and Iman, who I met last fall when she led a tour through the house – something offered seven days a week.
That was an intimate tour group with just me, my friend Jen, and an uncle and his niece, so I felt free to reply to a comment about May Alcott, which led Iman to mention she was reading a novel about the artist. “Little Woman in Blue? Um, I wrote that,” I said. Iman beamed and invited me to spend all the time I wanted in May’s bedroom.