Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Inheritance


Edith Adelon is the governess to Amy Hamilton. Lord Hamilton found Edith as a child in Italy, and brought her to England to live with his family. Arthur and Amy Hamilton treat Edith like a sister and are very protective of Edith and her gentle ways. Lady Hamilton is distant, but that is largely due to the distinction in rank she likes to preserve. The Hamilton's cousin Ida is the only one who dislikes Edith because she is jealous of her beauty, and the attention the family and eligible young men give her. When two visitors come to visit, Ida does everything she can to ruin Edith's chances of happiness.

Alcott wrote this when she was seventeen years old, and it was never published while she was alive. She wrote on the notebook this story was in, that it was her first novel. It was found among her papers and notebooks in an archive at Harvard and it was published. I thought it was interesting to read some of her early work. You can tell by her writing that she was young and inexperienced as a writer. The plot is simple and predictable. The characters are also very straightforward. They are either good or bad, and  largely stay that way to the end.

All the issues aside, it was a good first novel. It is full of morals, and that needs to be considered while reading it because it is very different from what we would expect now. You could tell that some of the elements from this story were used later in her other novels. For example, character names such as Amy and Adelon were reused in later novels. The basic plot was used in a short story Alcott wrote later in her career. She also has a lot of lessons about wholesome living or being a good person in this book which is typical in her later books.

The plot was a little predictable, and could be interpreted as a Cinderella retelling. If you are a fan of Alcott's books, you should try this book. It will remind you of her later works before she refined her style. It does have a lot of morals in it, but as long as you are expecting it, it should not be a problem. I think a younger audience would like it better than an adult, but again, fans of Alcott should try it to appreciate how her writing developed over time.

I would recommend reading this book.

November 6, 2014 Update: You can read my review of the movie adaptation of this book here.

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