The Mysterious Key and what it opened (by Louisa M Alcott)

I have long enjoyed Louisa M Alcott's novels, the best-known of which is 'Little Women'. I was aware that a few of her works were long out of print, but had not realised until recently that they are available free as e-books.

'The Mysterious Key and what it Opened' is the first book I read on the Kindle which I was given for Christmas. It's not a full-length novel; I was easily able to read it in a couple of sittings, so a good starter for e-reading as I got used to my new toy.

The story begins with the mysterious death of Lillian's father, after he receives an unexpected visitor. Lillian, who is young at the time, grows up rather spoiled. When she's about twelve she befriends Paul, who works as a servant but is evidently from her class - and, equally evidently to the reader, has some connection with her past.

It's written in an almost gothic style, with a rather melodramatic ending; were it not for the author's fame through the 'Little Women' series and others, it would probably have been lost to the world by now. But for the genre, it's nicely done; I quite like the style, and there are plot twists that I wasn't expecting.

All in all, I enjoyed it, and (since it was free) would recommend it to anyone who likes this kind of historical fiction. I look forward to reading more books that have been long out of print on my new Kindle.

Note that this book has been re-published in paperback, and the Amazon links showing are to these editions. You can find Kindle editions at the Amazon sites too, or download it free from Project Gutenberg.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th December 2010

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