5 December 2011

Louisa May Alcott: A Long Fatal Love Chase (1995)

In 1865 Louisa May Alcott went to Europe, traveling as a paid companion to Anna Weld, who was sickly and from a monied Boston family. Louisa tired of Anna's constant demands and left her employment to travel alone, although toward the end she spent two weeks with Ladislas Wisniewski, later basing the character Laurie in Little Women on him.

On her return to the USA, Alcott was not surprised to find the family's financial situation in its usual poor state, so tried to get pulp publisher James R. Elliott to accept this novel that she wrote, in two months, to Elliott's structural design. However, Elliott said he thought it too long and too sensational, so Alcott shelved it. It was not published until over a century later.

In A Long Fatal Love Chase the main character Rosamund Vivian, in the beginning living with her abusive grandfather, is very soon enticed away by the exciting Philip Tempest, who turns out to be even worse than her grandfather, and soon after her marriage to him she discovers that this frightening man is already married. No matter where she runs — and her escape takes in several different countries — Tempest, or his servant Baptiste, finds her. The book has Elliott's recommended number of twenty-four similar length chapters, there is the usual 'cliffhanger' effect at the end of most of them enticing the reader to continue, the book does betray the fact that it was swiftly written, but this is not just what we might call writing by numbers. There is a feminist strength in it: there is criticism of men's abuse of power, a female protagonist who controls most of the action, and although there's another male who's in love with her and gets her out of a few tricky spots, he's also effectively neutered by his unswerving devotion to a monastic order.

It's a very quick read, but it's not at all as trashy as it might sound on the surface. Plus, it's of obvious historical interest in Alcott's oeuvre.

1 comment:

Susan Bailey said...

I really enjoyed this book. I had put off reading Alcott's "blood and thunder" tales because I don't normally get into those kinds of stories, but this one was tight, well-written and fun to read.

I wrote about it too on my blog, you can read it here: http://louisamayalcottismypassion.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/a-long-fatal-love-chase-is-definitely-a-guilty-pleasure/