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Fruitlands: The Alcot Family and their Search for utopia by Richard Francis

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Divia
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Fruitlands: The Alcot Family and their Search for utopia by Richard Francis

Post by Divia » Tue December 28th, 2010, 6:20 pm

When I first saw this book on Amazon I thought it was going to be about Alcott, his family and the others that moved to Fruitlands to start their Utopia community. It is true that this book does have the Fruitlands experiment in it, however the reader is not introduced to it until page 154. By then I had lost interest.

The book starts off with Bronson Alcott's life. Where he was born and the general facts about his life. His marriage to Abigail, his stint teaching, his fallout with Elizabeth Peabody, his friendship with Emerson etc. etc. It's important information to have, and Mr. Francis sets it up nicely. I also enjoyed the journal entries he used. For instance, one that caught my attention was when Abigail had a still born boy. She writes about her experience and then Bronson also writes about his feelings. The journal entries Mr. Francis used helps the reader understand these historical people and makes them more real. Mr. Francis is also witty, which I enjoyed, especially his little jabs at Bronson. I couldn't help but laugh at Bronson trying to get arrested for not paying his taxes, and he couldn't even accomplish that.

The book is well written, and I did enjoy Mr. Francis' writing style. However, the main problem for me is that it took me 154 pages to get to the Fruitlands experiment. As I stated previously, by the time I had pushed my way through the first part of the book I was exhausted and didn't care anymore.

Readers learn about Concordia their first utopia experiment, if one can call it that. It was interesting, but not want I wanted to read about. The entire time I was anxious to get to Fruitlands. I think this soured my taste for the book. Had I known going in that this would be a book that covered a lot more information than just Fruitlands I may have been fine with it. Also Charles Lane was brought up, a lot. I understand that he was important but it seemed to me that he was mentioned more than Mr. Alcott. Maybe that's my perception, and I am wrong, but that's the way it felt.

Overall, this isn't a bad non fiction book about Mr. Alcott and his life leading up to Fruitlands and then the Fruitlands experiment. I think readers need to be aware that this book does not focus only on Fruitlands.

I will confess this is a wishy washy review on my part because I'm not sure how I feel about the book. I felt I was mislead, but I'm not sure if that's a fair assessment. What would others think? Was I foolish enough to believe that an entire book could be written only on Fruitlands? Well, yes I was foolish enough to believe it, and because this book didn't focus on the subject matter I thought it would I am giving it three stars.
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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Wed December 29th, 2010, 12:07 am

Good review, Divia, because readers can tell from it whether or not the book will be to their taste. In fact, some readers who would have found the book as annoying as you did might actually enjoy it if they read it after reading your review, because they will have a much better idea what to expect from it.

It's possible the author intended the book to have a different title, and the publisher insisted on Fruitlands because it was felt the book would be easier to market if the title and publicity appealed to readers looking for a book about Fruitlands. These tactics backfire for readers who feel cheated - maybe publishers just don't care, because those readers will already have bought the book. As an author, I would care a lot, though, because who's going to buy the author's next book after having such a disappointing experience?

I've reviewed several novels recently that were billed as something they really were not. For example, Lindsey Davis's recent novel about the English Civil War sounded like a romance from the jacket copy. There's a love story in it, but not until something like the last 1/5 or 1/6 of a very long novel - something likely to be extremely frustrating to a reader who picked it up because she wanted to read a romance.
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Divia
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Post by Divia » Wed December 29th, 2010, 2:29 am

Thanks for chiming in :)

I posted my review on Amazon, but I'm not sure how well it will go over. You maybe right that the author may not have wanted the title but the publisher said "who cares" and ran with it.

I wish someone would have told me about how the book was set up. If they had I wouldn't have bought it.
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