Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review - Louisa May Alcott's The Inheritance

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott
Published by: Dutton
Publication Date: 1997 (written 1849)
Format: Hardcover, 188 Pages
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy(different edition than one reviewed)

Edith Adelon was rescued from an Italian orphanage years ago by the kindly Lord Hamilton to be a companion to his daughter Amy. Lord Hamilton has since died and his son Arthur is the current Lord Hamilton and Edith and Amy have grown into lovely young women. Yet Edith has always felt apart, treated by some in the household, in particular Amy and Arthur's cousin Ida, as nothing more than a servant. When Arthur's friend Lord Percy arrives for the summer, Ida can see there is a connection between Edith and the Lord... a connection that Ida wishes to have for herself. Compounding matters, when their house party expands to include Lord Arlington, he too develops feelings for Edith. Also, after a daring rescue, Edith is responsible for saving Amy's life and is now treated by all as family.

Ida will not tolerate the situation she has been placed in. If being devious won't do, she will be downright underhanded. She will make all those who care and respect Edith despise her. Ida will make it look like the girl with the heart of gold who attends to all the ill and poor of the neighborhood is nothing more than a common thief. Yet there is a secret about Edith that she herself is unaware of. A secret that will change everything, perhaps even her chances with Lord Percy.

Surfing the upper cable channels late at night was how I first discovered The Inheritance. This being before I had a handy cable box that told me what I was watching, or even a computer, I'd just catch parts of it every now and then but I never knew what it was. For some reason I've seen the ball scene probably fifty times because of this strange viewing relationship I had with the miniseries. Also, seeing as I seemed to stumble upon it always around two in the morning I'd never be able to stay awake to see how it ended. All I knew was that it was a romance and Thomas Gibson from Dharma and Greg was in it, oh, and the mother from Family Ties. But being a huge Dharma and Greg fan and seeing Thomas Gibson dancing and strutting around in period clothing was enough to keep me hooked. Quite literally years after the fact I finally found out that it was called The Inheritance and was based on one of the very first stories Louisa May Alcott ever wrote, and then I was able to get it from Amazon for about $4!

So over a decade after it was made and probably five years or more after I had stumbled upon it, I finally knew the ending and the beginning and everything in between. I was also amused that the family estate was Rory Gilmore's High School on Gilmore Girls, but that was just a funny aside because that building has been used in almost everything, even Alias used it as some Eastern European Consulate. Now that I finally knew the author was the famed author of Little Women I ordered myself a copy of the book and was excited to get to reading it right away to see how it compared to the miniseries. As is often the case with me, right away means: and over three years later I create a themed event on my blog so that I force myself to pick up books I've been meaning to read for years. Hence me and The Inheritance finally set a date to meet each other. At least it took a lot less time than getting me to watch that miniseries in full...

The first thing that stuck me about the book was how much the miniseries had changed it! I'm not talking about little things here and there, but that this book is set in England not Concord, Massachusetts, and one of the main characters who I should add is long dead in the book is magically alive in the miniseries only to die tragically. At first I could see no correlation between the two. I was more than a little confused. The book and the miniseries where done in the same year, so at first I thought, maybe the people behind the miniseries where given just a vague outline of the plot and they just made up the rest... but then little things started to pop up which I recognized. The daring cliff rescue, the horse jumping the wall... little things that made me realize that yes, this was, in it's barest essence, the same thing.

Personally, I don't know whether it's because I saw the miniseries first, but the truth is, I far enjoyed the miniseries over reading the book. Edith was a little too good. She was a goody two-shoes. Always suffering silently and working to help the poor and willing to risk her life and her reputation for promises and oaths. How did she suffer from unwanted attention! Dear me, the horrors of men liking her, please. How Ida not loving her pained her most of all. Blah blah blah. She needs a backbone! Also, I know this is in all probability the earliest work of Louisa May Alcott, until something else comes along, but, unlike authors like Austen who where quite developed at this young age, you can tell the youth of the author. Everything is so juvenile and kind of badly written and repetitive. How I wish that Louisa had gone back to this story as a more mature writer, because I think she could have made this a masterpiece, instead it feels like a clunky rough draft of her childhood fantasies.


Great review! :D Now I need to watch the miniseries, but I don't know if I'll ever grab a copy of the book. I don't think I could stand "too good" Edith.

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