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The Inheritance


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About the Author

Louisa May Alcott (29 November 1832 - 6 March 1888) was born in Germantown, Pennsylvania. When she was almost two years old, Louisa's family moved to Massachusetts, the state where she lived for much of her life. The family moved many times over the years, usually back and forth between Boston and Concord (Mass.). Some notable places Louisa lived were 'Fruitlands' in Harvard, Massachusetts; 'Hillside' in Concord; and 'Orchard House,' also in Concord. 'Fruitlands' was the site of her father's attempt at Utopian living, which she wrote about in Transcendental Wild Oats, thirty years later in 1873. Louisa's childhood at 'Hillside' (later renamed 'Wayside' by Nathaniel Hawthorne, when he lived there) served as the basis for the action in her most popular novel, Little Women, which she wrote as an adult living in 'Orchard House.' Interestingly, these latter two houses were located next door to each other, with a walking path through the woods between. They are both still standing and open for tours in Concord. Louisa May Alcott's father, Amos Bronson Alcott, was an important - though controversial - man in his times and in his community. He is perhaps best known for being a philosopher and an education reformer, but he was also a leader in the Transcendentalist movement as well as a teacher, school superintendent, and an author. He established both the Temple School, in Bosto


YA‘Alcott's first novel, written at age 17 and discovered in 1988, is a delightful rags-to-riches ramble in the life of orphan Edith Adelon, who is taken in by Lord and Lady Hamilton to serve as a companion to their young daughter, Amy. When Lord Hamilton dies, Edith is treated as a servant in the household‘until she saves Amy's life. Purer than pure, young Edith takes the slights and verbal abuses of her jealous rival, Lady Ida, while Lord Percy, an older, wiser, and sadder friend of young Lord Arthur Hamilton and the reason for Lady Ida's jealousy, looks on in his attempts to love Edith from a distance. Set on an aristocratic English manor in the 19th century, the plot twists and turns its way to a "happily ever after" ending. Even though characters are stereotyped and the plot is at times contrived, this precursor of Little Women is sure to be popular among budding readers of Jane Austen or sprouting young writers looking for desirable role models. This squeaky-clean novel written by an outstanding author at the beginning of her career is a desirable addition to any YA collection.‘Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Dutton compares Alcott's recently discovered, charming first novel (written in 1849, when she was just 17) to those of Jane Austen. The comparison is apt, even if Alcott, though impressively accomplished for her age, can't match Austen for smart dialogue or lived-in characters. In fact, the novel is pure romance and reads like a fairy tale. Set in a manor house somewhere in England, it tells of two virtuous lovers separated by rank and the machinations of a jealous interloper. Alcott's heroine is a lovely Italian orphan with a mysterious past (and the wonderfully un-Italian name of Edith Adelon). The hero, Lord Percy ("Would to heaven I were a peasant"), is chivalrous, handsome and resigned to a life of loneliness after the loss of an early love. Will fate bring them together? Of course it will. Meanwhile, Alcott trots her characters through a delightful series of vignettes: an overheard garden colloquy, a candlelight boating party, a revealing round of tableaux vivants, a discovered theft, a deathbed promise-and the inevitable unearthing of a missing will that explains Edith's lineage. Alcott handles all of this machinery with aplomb and winning earnestness. According to the scholars who recently found the manuscript in Harvard's Houghton Library, The Inheritance is the novel Jo March writes in Little Women. Whether this is true or not, The Inheritance proves that years before Alcott invented the young adult novel, she could already give voice to the preoccupations and fantasies of the "little women" who would become her most enduring subjects. (Feb.)

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