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Old 1st Feb 2006, 21:54   #1
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Join Date: 20 Oct 2005
Location: Highlands of Scotland
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Default Louisa May Alcott: The Chase

This is the first L M Alcott I read and I suspect the last. She has long been on a vague non list of authors I must get round to having a look at some day. She sat somewhere between Anna Sewell and Susan Coolidge and all the other writers I never even concidered reading when I was the right age because they wrote "Girls Stuff".

The Chase was written two years before Little Women and is the most incredible tosh. The story centers around Rosamund Vivian who has been bought up as a recluse by her heartless grandfather on a remote island. Into their lives comes Phillip Tempest, a Byronesque libertine who does a good line in muttering darkly to himself so we, the readers, can glimpse his disreputable past.

Tempest wins Rosamund's heart then, literaly, wins her hand (and the rest of her body) by playing cards with the grandfather. The pair set sail on his boat and they are married - but are they? After a breif idyll she discovers he is already married and the handsome Greek boy that accompanies Tempest is his unacknowledged son! The son mysteriously disappears and Rosamund finds an unmarked grave. She flees to Paris. Tempest tracks her down. She flees across the roof tops. She bumps into the boy who isn't dead after all and goes into a convent. Tempest tracks her down with the help of a corrupt priest. She flees but he tracks her down. She attempts to kill herself but wakes up (or rather "recovered the conciousness she lost as the bullet entered her side") in an asylum guarded by her pursuer's faithful manservant. She escapes - but guess what! - Tempest tracks her down... and on and on it goes. No cliche of Gothic melodrama is missed out, there are duels, encounters on forsaken moors, former convicts disgused as Spanish noblewomen, famous french detectives, plunges from cliffs, secret panels, hairsbredth escapes, currupt doctors, corrupt priests, murder - the lot- with every twist and turn propelled by the most incredible coincidences.

In the end Tempest manages to run down the small boat containing his rival in love (a nobleman turned priest) and unbeknownst to him (and to us until a few pages later) his beloved too. She dies. He kills himself. The end

It has been without doubt my bad writing reading highlight of the year so far, as this example of the gushy style will amply demonstrate:

Turning with a candle dimly burning in her hand she uttered a loud cry and rushed to the door, for there seated in her one chair was Phillip Tempest.

"At last, at last, my little truant, I have found you!" he said, rising with a laugh of triumph and a welcoming gesture as he advanced to meet her.

"It is fast, Baptiste is without, so be quiet for escape is impossible, and if you raise the house I'll swear you are mad and carry you away by force. Be wise, my little Rose, and tell me why you so cruelly deserted me. Come, I will listen patiently, and we may find some foolish trifle is to blame for this wearisome separation."

He was right, the door would not yield to her desperate hands and finding flight vain she composed her startled nerves by remembering that he had no power over her now. This thought steadied her and gave her courage to confront him with indignant eyes but unfaltering voice.

"The 'trifle' which separates us forever is your wife."

Contempt embittered the brief answer and a defiant look warned him back. He paused with a black frown, though still his eye rested exultingly upon her and he wore the air of a master who has recovered a runaway slave.
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Last edited by JunkMonkey; 1st Feb 2006 at 23:38.
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