This short novel, The Inheritance (Penguin Classics, 1998), was written by the famous children’s author Louisa May Alcott when she was only seventeen. It was found only recently and then published. The writing is formal and stylized, but this does not detract from the beauty of the book. The characters are vividly drawn; the plot is deeply engrossing, and the themes are noble. Middle school girls will enjoy its romantic setting among the English nobility of the 1800’s.

In this story, Edith is governess and companion to Amy and a friend to Amy’s older brother, Arthur. Lady Hamilton, Amy and Arthur’s  mother, treats Edith with a coolness that keeps her in her place. The younger woman is to her only an Italian orphan taken into their home as an act of compassion by the late Lord Hamilton. Also living with the family is Amy’s cousin Ida, who hopes to marry a rich gentleman to provide her the rank and wealth she covets.

Arthur’s friend, Lord Percy, admires Edith for her inner character and gentle kindness toward others. Ida’s jealousy soars.

Meanwhile, Edith learns from long lost documents that she is the heir to the Hamilton’s fortune and property. She must decide whether to claim her rightful place over her friends, whom she now knows are her aunt and cousins, or keep her secret and be loved by them for herself alone.

Ida’s spiteful attempt to shame Edith and a careless servant’s actions bring the situation to a turning point. Edith must choose–what will be her true inheritance?

Donna Fujimoto is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. She has published both devotionals for adults and short stories for teens. Her children love to read.

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