Agnes Hopetoun and her three siblings find life very different after the death of their father. They must move with their mother from a large comfortable home to a little house on the edge of the village; and the eldest son must relinquish his dream of medical school. The arrival of old Uncle James from the west indies adds more complications.
Biographical and other notes
This children's book seems at first glance to fit the category of didactic, or moralistic, fiction for children, a Victorian genre notable for its artificial focus on piety and good works. But Margaret Oliphant's focus is on genuine human issues - how to face life's challenges, move forward after setbacks, resolve ethical dilemmas - all explored through the story of a delightful little family.
The story is of course fictional, but in portraying 10-year-old Agnes, who seems thoughtful and analytical beyond her years, Mrs Oliphant may have thought back to herself at that age.
British publishing information
First edition: Macmillan and Co. 1858 (1859 on title page)