A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott
Random House, 1st edition, 1995
Genre: potboiler, romance, Victorian pop literature
Synopsis & Review: Eighteen-year-old Rosamond Vivian lives on a remote island off the English coast with only her eremitic, indifferent grandfather for company. Longing for something, anything of note to happen in her life, she recklessly declares, “I often feel as if I’d gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom.” And so she very nearly does, for on the heels of her declaration, Phillip Tempest enters her life, a thrilling and sinister, but devilishly charming, man enters her life. Rosamond soon succumbs to the temptations Tempest offers, falling in love with the first attractive, virile man she’s ever met–and with the visions he paints before her of sailing the world on his yacht Circe, and seeing everything she’s only read of in books. When she finally admits her love for him, Tempest dares her grandfather to wager her very being, and so wins Rose’s hand in a game of cards. Before they set sail, Tempest offers Rose one final chance to live with him and be his love, damning society, but she refuses and insists that he marry her or not have her at all.
A year later, in the pleasure gardens of Valrosa, Rose learns that those who dance must pay the fiddler as Tempest proves that he is the blackguard and libertine he always insisted he was with deceit, treachery, and even murder blackening his soul. Not only does Tempest do away with her little page Ippolito–who may be something else entirely–but he is married to another woman already. desperate, Rose hastens away through the night, unable to share her life with a man so heartless, as much as she may love him. And so begins the long fatal love across Europe, from convent to asylum, garrets to country manors. Each time Rose thinks she has escaped his grasp, Tempest appears once more in her life, beguiling her to join him again, and the farther and faster she runs, the more he desires her.
She took to writing sensation stories, for in those dark ages, even all-perfect America read rubbish. So wrote Louisa May Alcott of Jo March in Little Women, but she might as well have been writing about herself. To support her family, Louisa May, too wrote blood-and-thunder tales and thrillers under a nom de plume, and wildly successful ones, at that. A Long Fatal Love Chase was one of those, written after her European travels. Destined for serialization, it was ultimately rejected, even after extensive rewrites, for being “too long and too sensational,” and remained unpublished till 1995. Read the rest of this entry »
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
originally published 1868/9
Dell Yearling Classics, 2nd printing, 1987
Genre: Children’s literature
Synopsis & Review: Loosely based on Alcott’s own experiences growing up, Little Women tells the story of the four adolescent March sisters–Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy–as they grow up genteelly poor in Civil War Concord, Massachusetts. While their father serves as chaplain in the Union Army, the girls are raised by their beloved mother, Marmee, who guides them through their trials and tribulations both small and large. The novel begins at Christmas, when the girls work to overcome their selfish instincts by spending their pocket money on gifts for Marmee. As presents, they received individual copies of the New Testament, and each vows to work to overcome her flaws using it as a guidebook. The eldest sister Meg is a proper young lady, pretty and responsible, but she best remembers life before the Marches lost their money, and often sighs for pretty things and luxuries. She struggles against vanity, particularly when compared to the lives of her still-wealthy friends and her employers. The chief protagonist Jo is a harum-scarum girl, tomboyish and outspoken, and an aspiring writer who must learn to subdue her too hot temper. Beth is a talented pianist, but over-shy, to the point where she does not go to school and stays home caring for her dolls and cats, avoid public interaction whenever possible. She works at overcoming her shyness, especially when doing charitable works or befriending old Mr Laurence. The youngest sister, Amy is artistic and self-conscious, too aware of her prettiness and social graces. As the baby of the family, she has been petted and spoilt, and is prone to tantrums when she doesn’t get her way. She is aware of her selfishness, and her task is to overcome it. As the sisters go about their business, they also befriend their neighbors, wealthy old Mr Laurence and his grandson Laurie, a musical young man who becomes fast friends with the Marches, especially Jo. And that is enough synopsis for this classic, since if you haven’t read it already (gasp!) you can see it all on Wikipedia. I mean, who doesn’t know all this already?
I was eight when I read Little Women for the first time (is that late, or right on time?); my mother, who loved helping me pick out my allowance books and often steered me toward the classics she loved as a little girl, suggested it, and so I began reading it that winter. Read the rest of this entry »