Eight Cousins

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"Eight Cousins, or The Aunt-Hill" was published in 1875 by American novelist Louisa May Alcott. It is the story of Rose Campbell, a lonely and sickly girl who has been recently orphaned and must now reside with her maiden aunts, the matriarchs of her wealthy Boston family. When Rose's guardian, Uncle Alec, returns from abroad, he takes over her care. Through his unorthodox theories about child-rearing, she becomes happier and healthier while finding her place in her family of seven boy cousins and numerous aunts and uncles. She also makes friends with Phebe, her aunts' young housemaid, whose cheerful attitude in the face of poverty helps Rose to understand and value her own good fortune.

Major themes

Each chapter describes an adventure in Rose's life as she learns to help herself and others make good choices. Rose must define for herself her role as the only woman of her generation in her family and as an heiress in Boston's elite society.

Without a mother for most of her life, Rose looks to her many aunts, her friends, and the housemaid Phebe as feminine role models. At the same time, this 13-year-old girl, who has just lost her beloved father, previously the only male in her life, is suddenly confronted with a male guardian and seven male cousins.

As do all of Alcott's books for young people, the story takes a high moral tone. Various chapters illustrate the evils of cigar-smoking, "yellow-back" novels, high fashion, billiards, patent nostrums, and so...
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