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Behind a Mask, Or, a Woman's Power

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  540 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
Originally published in 1866 under the pseudonym "A. M. Barnard." Louisa May Alcott's novel of romance and sexual intrigue is one of her lesser-known gems. Its tone and characterizations strike a markedly different chord from her best-known works, such as "Little Women" and "Little Men," and it remains a popular addition to her oeuvre.
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1866)
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Jan 10, 2016 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I would surely like to know the public reaction when this book was published. It is somewhat unusual more so for an author like L M Alcott who authored the Little women which those who have read it know to be prim and proper ,maybe a little preachy too. This one was just the opposite and it brought so much excitement and suspense that I started anxiously waiting for my morning walks when I could listen to this on audio from Librivox. Hats off to the author for such a variety in her writing. And ...more
When I decided to read Louisa May Alcott’s Behind a Mask for Transcendentalist Month, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The brief blurb claimed it was so unlike the usual Alcott-fare most people are familiar with — the likes of Little Women, Eight Cousins and An Old-Fashioned Girl. Apparently it was to be dark and mysterious…the kind of material that no one, not knowing Alcott except through her well-known works, would ever have suspected. The story is this. A young woman comes to the Coventry ...more
J. Boo
"Little Women" has a lot of autobiographical elements, among them Jo's making a living by writing schlocky thrillers. "Behind a Mask" was one of Alcott's, but in this case I'm going to say she undersold her works considerably - it's really a hoot. The Femme Fatale/Adventuress is, I think, out of fashion these days -- not that I really keep in touch but "Gone Girl" seems to be the only recent popular entre featuring one. Too bad.

Here, the delightfully devious Jean Muir starts governessing for a w
OK, so, by and large I did not like this. It's not that it's not a good story. The fact that the protagonist enraged me so indicates that it really is. But...the rating is based on whether I liked it....

The ONLY thing that got it two stars from me was:

"Yes; but oh, remember that I have no friend but you! Promise me to be faithful to the last--to believe in me, to trust me, protect and love me, in spite of all misfortunes, faults, and follies. I will be true as steel to you, and make your life a
Jan 07, 2013 Tammy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most people will either love Alcott for her "Little Women" and "Little Men" or hate her for it. If you have fallen into the hate camp, as I have, because "Little Women" is too sweet, you will love this side of Alcott. She is saucy, witty, and tough. Alcott's governess makes Jane Eyre look as though she has dropped out of a Jane Austen novel, and as all students of literature have learned, Bronte hated Austen for her unrealistic view of life.

Alcott beautifully delivers a sick and twisted tale of
Jun 13, 2016 Lobstergirl rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Danny Pintauro
Shelves: fiction

Sneaky governess, idiot aristocrats.
Oct 10, 2014 Lizixer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delicious little thriller set in Victorian Britain - a good autumnal short read of dark secrets, sexual intrigue and good old fashioned melodrama.
Oct 16, 2011 Sally906 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
BEHIND A MASK (aka ‘A Woman’s Power’) is a novelette by Louisa May Alcott and completely different from her ‘Little Women’ series. This is a story of secrets, betrayal, deception and sexual intrigue.

Jean Muir is a delicate and demure governess who, on recommendation of a family friend, has come to stay with the Coventry family and tutor the only daughter, Bella. Before the introductions are barely over she manages to gain the affections of Mrs. Coventry, her charge Bella, the youngest son Edwar
Jun 24, 2016 Gina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Awesome. An inverted Jane Eyre!
Sally Whitehead
I first read this fantastic little novella for my Literature degree back in the mid nineties and I remember being incredibly surprised by the "Alternative Alcott" (for that is the name of the anthology my copy appears in) I was presented with having only ever really associated her with "Little Women" previously.

This is an utterly delicious story and so deftly and delightfully woven it literally made me grin to reread it. This is Alcott having fun, and it's wicked and theatrical and I still love
Ok. This was a required reading for a class, but I actually found it a little fascinating. I wasn't expecting this kind of a book from the author of Little Women. This is so drastically different from that classic novel that it surprised me.

Here's the deal. Jean Muir becomes governess for Bella Coventry. But she's there for more diabolical reasons. These reasons are dangled in front of you, but you don't really learn what they are until the end of the book.

Jean seems to be a helpless girl, one w
Sep 17, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
I LOVED THIS STORY. Read for my American fem lit class, I enjoyed reading this story just as much as discussing it. Alcott tells of Jean and the family with such skill and the plot twist is just so interesting that I tore through it.
Feb 07, 2016 Tintaglia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Ingenuità? Certo. Ma non riesco a non divertirmi con la produzione 'nera' di Louisa May Alcott.
Jan 06, 2014 Yvonne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: LM Alcott readers, fans 19th century novels
Recommended to Yvonne by: Doris Lessing forward
I picked up Behind a Mask, or A Woman's Power as a result of searching for works by Doris Lessing after her passing. Lessing wrote the forward to this short fiction by Louisa May Alcott, a long-time if not to say childhood favorite author of mine.
A beautiful young woman arrives to be governess to the lively young daughter of a hypochondriac widow. The governess is a challenge to the elder brother, inspires love in the second son of the family, and causes jealousy and mistrust in the fair cousin
Nov 05, 2015 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
I didn't find this too different from a lot of other 19th century literature, so I didn't even consider this is from the same author as Little Women (I'd like to read Little Men next).
Ergo, overall I was not scandalised, no where near in comparison with something like Karl Marx's Das Kapital the start of which is exactly contemporaneous with this book.

I had been expecting to be shocked more by this than I was, but, again, look at the terrible literature I have to compare.
Feb 29, 2016 Bellezza rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Quite different from the Little Woman series of books and 8 cousins and the books that we part of that series.

This book is about a woman looking for security in a society that discriminates against them. When a woman with no family had limited options and was held to a much higher standard of conduct then others. Miss Alcott writes with much attention to detail that is not overbearing or too wordy, and with a keen understanding of what it is like to be powerless in one sense and use one's streng
Jul 29, 2016 Geoff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My Recommendation: Read. This. Work. I haven't even touched the surface of the feminism, the politics of gender or even societal expectations. The only thing that kept me from reading the book in one sitting was my pesky day job. Even when I wasn't reading it, all I could think about was how the book would end or what would happen next.

My Response: Now THIS is a classic that people should be reading. Scandal. Intrigue. Drama. Seriously, I don't know why other people haven't read it. I was glad t
Caroline Bennett
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Pomme de Terre
There is a trope I see fairly often in romantic stories/subplots where the heroine, thinking she’s alone or being unwatched, does something private or personal like singing, crying, marvelling at some personal token, etc., but is actually being secretly watched by the hero. The heroine’s guard is let down, allowing the reader, and most importantly, the hero to gaze at her during a moment of vulnerability. The power dynamics are such that the hero knows more about the heroine’s personal life than ...more
Dec 23, 2012 Amandine rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Très décevant. Je n'en attendais pourtant pas grand-chose : dès les premières lignes, j'ai su à quoi m'attendre (roman à l'eau de rose prévisible, personnages très gentils et niais qui se feront avoir par une méchante et hypocrite gouvernante) et espérais seulement que la fin ne serait pas trop "gnangnan" (du style "j'ai été très méchante, mais je m'en repens, parce que vous êtes les premiers à m'aimer malgré ma pauvreté" et force larmes de la part de la méchante-pas-si-méchante comme des "genti ...more

This book has been a real surprise. I expected some sweet stories, but Alcott has created a person that while you are rooting for, you know you shouldn't be. This is very much unlike Little Women and other books that you have probably read by her, but I am surprised that I liked it.

The Coventry family, nobility in England, hire 19-year-old Miss Jane Muir to be a governess for the youngest child, Bella. Although nobody really knows her background, they have been told that she is from Scotland
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 28, 2012 Shari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic
This book was quite a surprise. I've read a number of literary works from the same time period as Alcott's but I don't recall any that is this daring and wicked. Behind a Mask is literally what its title says. Instead of the usual demure, soft, and pretty heroine that graces most 19th century novels, Behind a Mask boasts a tough, determined and willful protagonist who hides her colorful, hard past and selfish intentions behind an act as a governess of good background and character. But beware! U ...more
Phil Syphe
Jan 08, 2014 Phil Syphe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jean Muir arrives at the Coventry family’s stately home to begin her new occupation as governess to sixteen-year-old Bella. She has an aura of mystery about her and proves to be an enchantress during one to one situations with members of the opposite sex. Most of the household take a shine to the newcomer, especially Bella, while two or three others are suspicious of Miss Muir’s true nature.

‘Behind a Mask or A Woman's Power’ blends suspense, deceit, desire, romance, pathos, jealousy, and heartac
Laura Lewakowski
I was so surprised to know that LMA wrote anything other than my beloved Little Women and the rest of that "series". I was also forewarned that Behind the Mask was a DARKER side of Louisa's writings. Thus said, it was hard for me to love this, although the actual writing was SO good! Every time she used a word that was out of the ordinary, I silently gave a cheer (whilst looking up the word). A little hard to follow the names for me - sometimes the characters were called by first names, other ti ...more
Apr 09, 2014 Fanny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fun little "mystery" story. Not at all like Alcott's more known work, but well written none the less.
One knows at the beginning that the main protagonist is disguised and lying, but I could not understand her motives until the end. And the suspense stays until the last moment to know if she will succeed or not.
Amanda Butler
Oct 07, 2014 Amanda Butler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librivox
This Gothic novella was nothing that I expected it to be. Infatuation, love, and the means of safety in Victorian society merge together to form intricate characters. The story is told in a straightforward manner that kept me on the edge of my seat.

Gothic literature is defined not only by the roles the characters play, but also the environment the story takes place in. There are multiple Gothic enclosures within this novella: the Coventry house, the garden, the tableau vivant, and even Jean Mui
Charlotte Tracey

Absolutely brilliant! I love stories that move away from the traditional repentance and punishment for evil/immoral characters trend we see everywhere. Jane is manipulative and cruel, but also creative and ingenious. I loved watching her get the better of the other characters and how there was nothing they could do to stop her in the end.
Dec 29, 2014 tysephine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, fiction
OMG. Intrigue, suspense, immoral governesses! Such a far cry from Little Women. This may not be the best written novel I've ever read, but the shock value alone is worth the price of admission.

I have to go find all her other sensational novels now.
Kathy Lewis
Nov 19, 2015 Kathy Lewis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good book. I would have wrestled with giving 3 stars but I enjoyed reading it. All the way until the end. That's where I was disappointed. I read another book recently that left me feeling this way also and it's sad because there is no hope for a sequel. At the last page I kept thinking there had to be more. Anyway, good story. It's Louisa May Alcott. Just read it.
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