Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

I often feel as if I'd gladly sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom -- Rosamond Vivian, age 18.

What is that saying about being careful about you wish for, because you might actually get it? That is basically the theme of this book. Oh, and that men can be really, really, stalker-creepy. 

Believe it or not, Louisa May Alcott wrote novels that were NOT Little Women, Little Men, or Eight Cousins. In 1866, two years before the publication of Little Women, Alcott was in financial straits and quickly wrote a Gothic/Victorian sensation novel which was ultimately rejected by her publishers, even after major revisions. It remained unpublished until 1995 when it was sold and finally published by Random House, and became a posthumous best-seller. 

The plot is basically this: young Rosamond Vivian is living on an isolated island off the coast of England with her cranky grandfather, dreaming about an exciting life. She gets her wish when a mysterious stranger named Philip Tempest (I kid you not) comes to visit and steals her heart. He convinces her to run away with him on his yacht and all is well for about a year when she realizes he has a Really Big Secret, and that he may not be such a nice guy after all, so she grabs as much money and jewelry as she can in a few minutes and slips out the back; however, Philip loves her in a kind of twisted way and will not be denied, and he spends the remainder of the book chasing her all over Europe. She gives him the slip over and over, mostly with the aid of strangers who will help her because she is Beautiful and Good. There are a lot of intrigues, miraculous coincidences, and dubious characters. 

I enjoyed this book in the beginning, but as it wore on (and it's only about 250 pages) I began to get annoyed by Philip's character -- he just won't take no for an answer, and that's pretty disturbing. Obviously, women didn't have that many choices in the 1860s, but this guy is just a creepy stalker. He claims he loves her and she will always belong to him. Oh, please. Coincidentally, I just this morning read an excellent (and disturbing) post on Book Riot about the relationship between Jo March and Laurie, and which points out that Laurie is also obsessed and won't leave Jo alone. It is extremely eye-opening and it really makes me wonder if this is a theme running throughout Alcott's work. Alcott did write other potboilers that were published, sometimes under a pseudonym. If you're interested, here's a great  New York Times article from 1995 by novelist Stephen King.  

I had originally planned to read this for my Gothic classic for the Back to the Classics challenge, but as I was reading it I wondered if it really weren't more of a Victorian sensation novel. I'd say it's a bit of both -- Gothic novels tend to include mysterious strangers, locked rooms, and potentially haunted castles, etc. Victorian sensation novels are more about people with big secrets, and Philip's secret is revealed pretty quickly. I think this one could go either way. I'm actually going to count it as both, as a  Gothic Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and as my Genre/Subgenre of my choice for the Victorian Reading Challenge.

Bloggers, have any of you read this book? Were you as creeped out as I was? And is anyone else going to reread Little Women with a more critical eye? 


  1. I only really read Little Women last year If I read it as a child/tween, then I must have read an abridged version. I did not find Laurie to be stalkerish in LW, just young and immature. But I did go to the BookRiot link and Rodriquez reading of the book is an interesting one!

    I haven’t read any other books by Alcott, but A Long Fatal Love Chase sounds like the sort of stuff that Jo would have scripted and then acted out with her sisters and friends, with Jo playing the villain, complete with a twirling mustache.

    1. Stephen King's article is also very enlightening. I know I read somewhere that this is EXACTLY the super-dramatic novel that Jo would have written -- I can't remember if it was King or somewhere else. And Philip Tempest is definitely a mustache-twirler, he is SO over the top.

  2. I was nine when it was released - prime Alcott-reading age - and remember being so excited about it and then...I read it. I remember finding it completely ridiculous. I think it was so over the top that I couldn't even find it creepy, just a waste of time. Remember it going very quickly into the donation pile.

  3. When I first started reading your review, I was thinking this one might be fun come October. By the end, not so much. It really does sound creepy.

  4. I've had LMA's collection of stories, Behind a Mask, for years and just haven't garnered the oomph to read it. I have a feeling I would be compelled to roll my eyes quite a bit. If I do, I'll be on the lookout for the stalking theme. I think LMA felt very vulnerable for much of her life, despite her bravado, so I'm not surprised that it surfaces in her writing. Interesting bit about Jo and Laurie.


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