It had been ever so long since I read a lovely story complete with pure hearts and with villains who need only be shown the love of a kind soul to turn them from their wicked ways.
Does the above sentence sound a trifle old-fashioned? Such was the prose of the 19th century. While I wouldn’t want to limit my reading to Charles Dickens and Jane Austen and their contemporaries, I admit I weary of our more direct, slangy style of language in most modern novels.
Recently, I read The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott. I believe it was never published until 1997, nor was it discovered until 1988 in a collection of her personal writings. She inscribed it (with a smile and much fluttering of heart I would wager) with the words, “My First Novel Written at Seventeen.”
The prose is Victorian in nature, and I could easily picture a young Louisa – talented, idealistic, romantic – penning a tale of selfless love, kindness to the poor, and including an evil rival who still had the benefit of a guilty conscience. The settings are described in flowery language, yet even at seventeen, Louisa May Alcott could create word pictures with such clarity that you picture yourself standing beside the heroine, perhaps one of the house servants observing the goings-on of the aristocratic family whom you serve.
Introducing modern generations to the literature of Louisa May Alcott may take some doing. Our children (and we ourselves) may complain that “not much happens” in her stories. Yes, it’s rare to find anyone in a pitched battle of blood and guts, but life happens in her novels and many others of that era.
If you’ve never read books by Louisa May Alcott, or you would like to introduce them to your children, The Inheritance may be a good place to start. Like learning to swim, start in shallow water. The novel is relatively short (under 200 pages) and contains plenty of relationship conflicts. From there move on to the deeper water of her famous works.
I believe she is best known for Little Women because it portrays the life and the quiet courage of those who soldier on at home while their men are off to war. She teaches us that by God’s grace the human spirit triumphs over adversity.
Louisa May Alcott knew that God doesn’t always ask us to strive mightily and publicly to be icons of virtue in His eyes. And it takes more courage to be faithful in daily struggles than to make one heroic gesture in the heat of battle. Such are the qualities I want to groom in my own children and grandchildren.
Dear readers, you are welcome to share your thoughts on other classic stories that you find uplifting to the soul.