Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Louisa May Alcott's "The Inheritance"

The cast of the 1997 film adaptation of The Inheritance

1st book to be ticked off this year's reading list! :-)

First of all, I have to say that this book is very different from what I expected it to be! I own the 1997 tv adaptation of The Inheritance on dvd and have watched it several times. (It's actually become quite a family favourite! - Click here to read my review of the Inheritance movie.) I knew that there would be some differences between the book and the movie, but I didn't expect the said differences to be so major!

The Inheritance tells the tale of Edith Adelon, a beautiful young Italian girl. An orphan, her plight stirred pity in the heart of an English aristocrat when she was just a little girl. - He brought her home with him, where she was raised with his own children. As she got older, she helped earn her keep by working as governess for the wealthy aristocrat's young daughter.

One day, an old family friend, Lord Percy, comes to visit. He is immediately smitten with the lovely young Edith, but will the jealous attentions of the proud and deceitful Lady Ida get in the way of his (and Edith's) happiness? What will happen when the arrogant young Lord Arlington makes up his mind to win Edith's heart? And what is the shocking secret from Edith's childhood that is yet to be uncovered?

[Note: that last paragraph was written with tongue firmly in cheek.]

Of course, you will probably already be able to guess the answers to the questions I posed, but in spite of it's predictability, it really is a very sweet, charming story, whatever it's flaws may be.

The Inheritance is believed to be Louisa May Alcott's first novel, written when she was only 17. (Not much older than me! Wow, that's kind of creepy. . . ) Incredibly, the manuscript wasn't [re]discovered until 1988. It was first published (and hence made available to the public for the very first time) in 1997, the same year the movie adaptation of the book was aired.

I won't go into all the details of the differences between the book and the movie just now. That might be the subject of another post sometime. . .

In brief - the main plot and characters are for the most part fairly similar, although there are several characters in the movie that don't appear in the book, and vice versa. The most noticeable discrepancy between book and film: in the book, the story is set against the backdrop of early- to mid-Victorian England (presumable the 1840s - Alcott finished writing the book in 1849), with everyone roaming around through huge country manors and (of course) the beautiful English countryside. In the film, the setting is changed to 1870s American New England.

The screenwriters for the movie really 'patched up' a lot of details from the book, doing their best to smooth over any weaknesses whilst attempting to stay true to spirit of Alcott's classic books at the same time. And it has to be said, they did a pretty good job. Many scenes that were invented for the film seem just like typical Alcott, when in fact they are not from the book at all. So, in one way, I did get the impression that the movie is perhaps (a big perhaps) a little bit like what The Inheritance might have been if Alcott had revised it in her later years as a mature author.

I also felt very strongly that this book is ripe for another film adaptation. You see, there are several different angles from which you can view this book. The makers of the 1997 adaptation came at it from one perspective, but I really think it would be entirely possible for someone else to come along and make a new movie version from a totally different perspective.

For instance, you could have the story take place in it's original setting - 1840s England - or you could easily change it to a different era altogether, such as the late middle ages or Renaissance years. And/or you could change the setting from England to the European continent. Because the plot is so simple and timeless, the possibilities for re-vamping the book are practically endless.

You could even assume a fairytale-ish atmosphere and make it so that the story occurs in a magical part historical, part fairy-tale world similar to Ever After.

Now - should you read The Inheritance, or not?

If you are young, romantic, and female, chances are you will like it. And any fan of Alcott's other works should read it, if only for the fascinating glimpse it gives into the mind of the young Louisa May.

The Inheritance doesn't reach the heights of Alcott's later masterpieces, but I found it to be an enjoyable and worthwhile read nonetheless. It's really not a bad read, especially when one takes into consideration the youth of the author.

I was able to get my copy on BookMooch. I am absolutely loving BookMooch! If you are a booklover not currently on BookMooch, start an account right now! Then I can swap books with you, LOL! :P

Current Mood: Quixotic


Andy Moore said...

I've watched the Inheritance, pretty good film, but it did seem very "American", still, maybe it was supposed to be...

BookMooch looks like a good idea...

The Editrix said...

Yeah, I understand what you mean. I still really enjoyed it, though.

BookMooch is a good idea! :-D

Miss Jen said...

Oh.... I love wonderful movies!!;)
Thank you for the great recommendation, Elise. I have never see this movie before, but hope to really soon! ;)

Many Blessings to you dear!!!

Love Always,

The Editrix said...

Yes! You must watch it sometime - I know you'd love it! :-D

Lydz said...

I've watched The Inheritance with my family.... I have to say, we laughed over a few parts of it. Some of it seemed very cheesy - but then there were also unexpectedly brilliant parts: the father says some very witty things in just the right places. And, I love the costumes in the movie too.. esp. the heroine's ball gown :)

The Editrix said...

^Yes, I agree with just about everything you said there! Tom Conti was great, and the costumes were gorgeous. . . *sighs*