Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Inheritance


Earlier this year I promised I would write one book review each week… as you can see I’ve been a little distracted by traveling to Africa and afterwards trying to adjust back to my American way of life. Even though I have not written any reviews I did not stop reading. Today, I’m reviewing The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott.

The Inheritance is the first book Alcott wrote, at the tender age of 17. Unlike her others, it is short and does not dive into characters as much as her others. To me, it is evident that this is her first novel since her writing style greatly improves with her later works. Interestingly enough, this novel was not found until 1988 in the Houghton Library. Alcott wrote it in a little red notebook and inside was a slip of paper that read, “My first novel written at seventeen.” Sadly, this is where the interest of the book ends for me.

Alcott sets the book in her own times, the mid 1800s. The novel begins with the story of a poor orphan Italian girl who has been adopted into the rich Hamilton family as a companion for their daughter. The girl, Edith, is a sweet loving girl who seeks to serve everyone. Amy, the Hamilton’s daughter, is also sweet and loves beauty and adores Edith. Lord Percy comes to visit Amy’s brother and forms an attachment to Edith, but without telling her. Ida, Amy’s cousin, is jealous of Lord Percy’s love for Edith and strives to keep them apart, even framing Edith for stealing. I’ll let you imagine the ending. SPOILER warning: Of course she marries him at the end and she discovers she is actually a great heiress with more money than she knows what to do with. I do not doubt that this situation may have actually happened on occasion, but not very often!

While there is an interesting story line, the language is unrealistic. Not so much the vocabulary, but the expression of the words. Maybe, they spoke romantically 200 years ago but I have yet to hear a man comment in public on the beauty of a women’s heavenly hair, the sparkle in her penetrating eyes in the evening sun, or how he would serve her as a princess. Perhaps I simply haven’t met any yet, but I do not think they exist. And singing in a boat on a still pond lit only by moonlight? Seems a little unrealistic if you ask me.

As is common in 19th century literature there is a “perfect” character, Edith. While her behavior is to be admired, I feel such distance from her since--she never makes mistakes and tries to love everyone while I dwell on my dislike for others or selfishly serve myself.

Personally, it’s over the top romantic, in language and actions. Maybe men used to act that way, but I have yet to meet anyone like that, and do not desire to either. I do not want men to speak in poems to me and tell me how beautifully I sing and how I remind him of his mother. Neither do I want to only to take walks through flower-covered meadows and sing while he rows in a moonlit pond. I would rather sit at the dinner table and discuss books, life, and debate theology.  But that’s just me I guess.  To each his own.

Would I recommend the book? If you are looking for a book to enjoy and encourage, no I do not. There is not much substance to it, just exaggerated romance. But if you enjoy other Louisa May Alcott books such as I do, I do recommend it. I found it quite interesting to read the difference between the first book she wrote and some of her later ones. She evolved into a better writer as her life continued.

1 comment:

Hannah Beckett said...

Aww come on Anna where's your sense of romance?? There is a movie made from this book I believe... Bad acting. AND I'M SO HAPPY YOU FINALLY DID A BOOK REVIEW!!! When I find someone who says something about your heavenly hair I'll let you know.