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The Inheritance

The Inheritance

4.2 12
by Louisa May Alcott, Joel Myerson (Introduction), Daniel Shealy (Introduction)

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Her recently discovered first novel, The Inheritance, written when Alcott was just 17, offers readers a fascinating look at the birth of a remarkable career.

The Inheritance, set in an English country manor, is the story of Edith Adelon, an Italian orphan brought to England by Lord Hamilton as a companion for his children. With a charm reminiscent of


Her recently discovered first novel, The Inheritance, written when Alcott was just 17, offers readers a fascinating look at the birth of a remarkable career.

The Inheritance, set in an English country manor, is the story of Edith Adelon, an Italian orphan brought to England by Lord Hamilton as a companion for his children. With a charm reminiscent of Jane Austen's novels, Alcott's plot sets love and courtesy against depravity and dishonor -- and with the help of a secret inheritance, allows virtue to prevail.In their Introduction, Joel Myerson and Daniel Shealy relate their fortuitous discovery of Alcott's manuscript draft of The Inheritance (preserved at the Houghton Library of Harvard). They explore the forces -- both literary and personal -- that shaped the novel, and study how it foreshadowed Alcott's later work.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
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.
Children's Literature - Gisela Jernigan
When two researchers were looking through some of the Alcott family documents, they came across a manuscript titled in Louisa's hand, "My first novel written at seventeen." They soon realized that this romantic novel must be the very "poor little romance" that Jo March wrote and sent off "into the big busy world to try its fate" in the classic Little Women. This "little romance." now published for the first time, is set in an English country manor in early Victorian times. It tells the dramatic story of Edith Adelon, a poor, but beautiful, talented, and above all, virtuous Italian orphan, who was adopted by a wealthy English family as a child. After many misunderstandings brought about by Lady Ida, a malicious and envious family member, Edith becomes even more esteemed by her adopted family and wins the love of a handsome, kind neighbor, Lord Percy. Alcott fans should enjoy reading this early work that reveals hints of how her more mature, skilled works will be written.
School Library Journal
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 householduntil 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

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
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Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania, in 1832, the second of four daughters. After a period of serving as an army nurse, she published Hospital Sketches in 1863, followed by Gothic Romances and lurid thrillers. In 1868-9, she published Little Women, which proved so popular that it was followed by two sequels and several other novels. She died in 1888.

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The Inheritance 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In 'The Inheritance,' by Louisa May Alcott, the main character, Edith, is a lonely girl brought into a rich home so that she could be friends with Amy, the youngest daughter. Edith catches the eye of the handsome Lord Percy while he visits with the family. The jealous Lady Ida, one of the ladies of the house, loves Lord Percy and feels that Edith is not of high enough blood to marry him. Lady Ida steals money from Amy's mother and then tries to have Edith thrown out of the house by blaming the missing money on her. Edith is too kind to suggest who she thinks has taken the money; and experiences many conflicts from being thrown out to losing a great friendship. The content of the book is filled with great description. Alcott takes you along as she opens the scenes: 'In a green park, where troops of bright-eyed deer lay sleeping under drooping trees and a clear lake mirrored in its bosom the flowers that grew upon it's edge...' The mood is set during the opening scene. The book is filled with scene after vivid scene, making the reader awe of the author's style and talent to entice one to read on, keeping up your couriosity until the end. 'The Inheritance' is a splendid young adult love novel just right for the romantic type. To absorb all that happens in this tale, its best to read it twice. The second time is much more enjoyable. The author writes beautifully for a 17-year-old.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Novel 'The Inheritance' was written to intrigue the persons who read and underestood the words on the pages. The characters were mysterious and the betrayel was real. I would describe a tale such as this a total world of irony and passion.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Louisa May Alcott has been a favorite author of mine since I first started to read her books. The Inheritance is one of the best books she has ever written. It goes to show that although being 'good' is not always an easy thing, it is well worth it in the end. This novel is another great version of the Cinderella story. (Although well casted, the movie version of it could have followed the novel more accurately though.)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book makes it clear that Alcott took her own advice to "Read good books, love good things, and cultivate soul and body as wisely as possible." This book is marvelous for a 17 year old to have written. While without the same level of maturity and sophistication of her later work, The Inheritance is a riveting, albeit short, read. I wish it had been a little longer. Scott's influence is apperent, and also some Bronte and dare I say Austen. In our era of some many bad copycat novels written by experienced authors it is wonderful to find a good original story written by a teenager. No Alcott collection would be complete without this book.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
its a graet loiusa may alcott novel ive read little women christines girls christines boys and girls by louisa may alcott theyre all grar books
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book takes place in Rome in a country setting with the main characters, Amy, Edith, Arthur, Lord Percy, Lady Ida, Lady Hamilton, and Lord Arlington. Amy is 17 and is very ill so all of her friends are trying to give her the best that she can have. Edith is adopted by Lady Hamilton so her niece, Amy, can have a playmate. As time goes by Lord Arlington begins to fall in love with Edith then she rejects him. I would not recommend this book to boys because it could be considered a love story. Some girls may like it and some may not. For me personally I didn't care for it that much. But others could like it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The story was OK, it just seemed to take forever for Edith to find her lover. She also sometimes seemed more meek and quiet than some of Alcott's heroines are, so that took a bit of getting use to. I know the point was to picture her virtuous as you read, but there is a fine line between being spineless and being mannerly. It was a quick read, and I wish there was more.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It was an wonderful book. I encourge you to read it.