Unfinished story by Louisa May Alcott published for first time

An early story from a young Louisa May Alcott, in which the Little Women author writes of two teenage girls vying for the attentions of a handsome young man, has been published for the first time.

This book was written in 1849 when Alcott was 17. Aunt Nellie’s Diary is told from the perspective of a 40-year-old woman bringing up her orphaned niece, Annie. When Annie’s friend Isabel comes to stay, Nellie becomes concerned that the girl’s attractive exterior hides a “darkness within”.

The unfinished story will appear this week in the Strand magazine. The 9,000-word work, describes both girls fall for the motherless Edward Clifford, who possesses his late “mother’s gentle heart beautifully blended with the calm and noble mind of his father”.

It was written almost 20 years before Little Women was published. The Strand’s editor Andrew Gulli said the tale showed how mature Alcott was at a very early age. “She was ahead of her time in many respects, from being a feminist and abolitionist,” said Gulli. “Fans will enjoy the idyllic life portrayed in the novel with picnics, and masked balls, which is a far cry from the life most of are leading today.”

The Strand is calling for writers to put themselves forward to finish the narrative. “Unfortunately, after 9,000 words, the narrative was abandoned, leaving many questions unanswered,” said Gulli. “We’re now looking for authors who think they are up for the task of completing it.”

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