I am part of a very tiny minority of people who didn’t love Little Women growing up. I’ve read it all the way through three times—twice when I was 10,I am part of a very tiny minority of people who didn’t love Little Women growing up. I’ve read it all the way through three times—twice when I was 10, and then back in 2011 when I embarked on my “Let’s reread my entire library!” quest. I don’t hate the book, but I’m so largely indifferent to it that I kinda shrug at the idea of reading Alcott’s other sequels. (I mean, I enjoy Jo March and I actually like her and Professor Behar together, and I liked the 1994 Winona Ryder movie when I saw. But as for the actual book itself, I recently listened to a podcast about Alcott and they mentioned that when her publishers suggested she write a book for young girls, Alcott said that she couldn’t do it because she was the least qualified person to do so.)
A few years ago, I had heard about A Long Fatal Love Chase and how Alcott wrote as her own spin on Jane Eyre and that Alcott really enjoyed writing Gothic fiction more than the novels that made her famous. (To go back to Little Women, Jo is the complete Author Avatar.) And I kind of filed this information away for “Oh, well, maybe I’ll get the ebook one day if I remember,” until I noticed that there was a newly released paperback of the book before I left the bookstore, and then eventually picked up a copy in the last few months.
So all of that background said—if you, like myself, love Gothic fiction and loved Crimson Peak in all of its Gothic tropeyness and over-the-top ridiculousness of the plot, you need to do yourself a favor and get your hands on A Long Fatal Love Chase right now. Because this book is the most Gothic book that ever Gothic’d. This is the book that Catherine Morland, were she a writer, would have written. This book is so Gothic that I think it ripped a hole in space-time and Louisa May Alcott heard a snippet of Nick Cave through it and basically wrote her interpretation of “Red Right Hand” as her opening scene.
I mean, you’ve got the heroine dramatically declaring “I will sell my soul to Satan for a year of freedom!” in the middle of the storm and the villain (who is named TEMPEST) just suddenly appears out of nowhere offering her what she wants. Oh, and he also looks exactly like a painting of Mephistopheles. HAVE WE MENTIONED FAUST YET? You might want to brush up on your Goethe for this one. And then the plot twists are just straight up so over-the-top Gothic, that near the end of the book, you’re expecting Rosamund to dramatically run into Phillip or his manservant literally around every corner. (There’s one part where Rosamund who’s trying to flee to safety on a steamer and oh, there’s a mysterious Spanish woman with a veil that covers most of her face. I’m just sitting there going “BOY I bet you’re nobody important AT ALL.”)
But for the amount that I was giggling over the “NONE MORE GOTHIC” nature of this book, I actually really enjoyed it and was really engrossed by the story, even when I could see the plot twists coming from miles away. And what I really find interesting is that Alcott’s portrayals of her characters, specifically Rosamund, is so modern and actually even more forward thinking than what I had been expecting. When we first meet Rosamund making her dramatic wish for freedom, I was expecting that she was going to be so innocent and sheltered that she wouldn’t know the situation she’s getting into. And while there are some elements of that here, it’s also mentioned that Rosamund is intrigued by the idea of “darkness” and excitement in her life. I liked that while she’s genuinely conflicted about her feelings towards Phillip, Rosamund recognizes that at the same time, Phillip Tempest is a dangerous man that she needs to get the fuck away from no matter how much he says he loves her.
I should point out here that the title of the book is actually a spoiler—it’s exactly what it says on the tin as what’s going to happen to Rosamund. (view spoiler)[That said, Rosamund’s death at the end doesn’t feel like a punishment for having entered into a false marriage and wanting to love someone who’s so wicked. Alcott really puts the blame and focus onto Phillip’s relentless pursuit of her that his final declaration of “Mine even in the grave!” really underscores how horrifying his relentless pursuit of Rosamund throughout the years is, and that he outright kills her. Not death from a broken heart or being tired from said pursuit, but literally outright murders her. (hide spoiler)]
It’s really interesting to read when we’re still hip-deep in the trend of “Oh, he’s so dangerous but my love can change him.” Because even though Rosamund still harbors feelings for Phillip and at some points thinks it could be possibly, Phillip manages to destroy that notion by insisting he can change if Rosamund just did what he wants her to do and stop running from him. (There’s a point where Phillip says, “Jacob’s seven years were boy’s play compared to what I have undergone and will yet bear for you, tyrant that you are. If I stay with you much longer I shall be completely subjugated and you will rule me with a rod of iron.”
And the amount that Phillip goes to control Rosamund. As I mentioned above, this is seen as Alcott’s response to Jane Eyre, but framing Phillip/Rochester as a domineering, abusive husband, and also a frank look at the attitudes of the times. When Rosamund is about to marry Comte De Luneville and hopefully get away from Phillip, he immediately sweeps in and tells the Comte that Rosamund is a madwoman who’s deluded herself into believing she had false marriage. (It also shows what a predator Phillip is, because the Comte’s deceased wife was also rumored to be mad. Also, I see what you did there.) And there’s also that Phillip largely places the blame on to Rosamund for most of the book, desperately trying to blame her for being untrue and false in a situation where his word is more likely to be believed. It’s not until Marion annuls their marriage where Phillip is forced to confront his past sins and even then, he’s so fully convinced that he’s not at fault.
Which is why I think this is such an interesting book to read, because while I don’t think Rosamund is meant to die for her sins at the end, I also like that she’s morally good without being the saintly representation of goodness throughout the book. I like that she has several conflicting relationships with men throughout the book, and most of them are for “I need to protect myself and this is the only way I have at the moment.” (There’s a point where Phillip says to Rosamund “Poor little Margaret, no hope for you when Faust and Mephistopheles are one." Again, HAVE WE MENTIONED THAT HE’S SATAN?) I even really like that Alcott plays on this idea of goodness, with Rosamund being betrayed by Father Dominic during her time hiding at the covenant and turns to Father Ignatius. (If there’s anyone who’s the literal patron saint of goodness in this book, it’s Ignatius. “I love her but I will leave her to pursue my path of the lord!” (view spoiler)[Also, I laughed my ass off when it’s suddenly revealed that Ignatius is actually a childhood romantic hero of Rosamund’s. Of course he is. Why am I shocked.) (hide spoiler)]
My only real hesitation in recommending this is that you really have to know what you’re coming into for this book, and really not just because this really isn’t what Alcott is popularly known for. A lot of the plot twists, especially as the plot ramps up to the climax, aren’t really well done, but you have to remember that this is written for that specific time period. For as much as I can have “Wow, I bet this’ll be important later” drinking game, it largely works for the plot progression. (Also to note that this was written as serialized novel to begin with, which also explains the very dramatic chapter ending plot twists.)
But I did really love this book in it’s over the top, Gothic-bordering on cheese-at times. And if you do like that sort of thing (like, did you see Crimson Peak and go OKAY THAT IS GOTHIC EYECANDY GIVE IT TO ME? You will need this book in your life.) And I’m immensely happy that I really enjoyed the hell out of it-- I think Rosamund is a wonderful heroine, and I’m definitely throwing this book at a lot of people I know. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
How does My Love Story!! just keep getting better with every volume? If anyone but Kawahara Kazune had been writing this, I think I would be more frusHow does My Love Story!! just keep getting better with every volume? If anyone but Kawahara Kazune had been writing this, I think I would be more frustrated with the progression of this series so far. And yet, at volume 6, I’m still here, excited to read the next installment and find out what happens next.
What I think helps with this volume is that the driving force isn’t so much about Takeo and Yamamoto’s relationship for the first half, but rather the long-gestating (heh) plotline of Takeo’s mother’s pregnancy. I’ve seen a few people talk about how parents in shojo manga don’t really play as much of a role in the plot, and I’d have to agree. While I certainly do think that there’s been some great depictions of parenting in other manga that I’ve read, most of the time they’re existing on the sidelines. (For example, in Kimi ni Todoke, I love Sawako’s parents, but they’re haven’t been really integral to the series.) And while I do understand why the parents wouldn’t play as big of a role as needed, it does seem that parental figures really only exist at times to show the reader that the characters have a family life or if there needs to be an easy source of conflict.
While Takeo’s parents have largely existed on the sidelines up until this point, what I really love about this first half is that it really fleshes them out more as characters, and not just as supporting characters. I also really love how much we see Takeo taking after his mother—not just her physical strength, but his genuine and kind nature as well. And I really liked seeing his mother helping out others and telling people “I can take it, you need to go before I do.” But what I really liked the most is the flashback to Takeo’s parents first meeting—first of all, I liked that it’s not framed as a joke of Takeo’s father being attracted to burlier women, but he’s genuinely attracted to Yuriko’s kindness and self-sacrifice. And I liked that both of their traits really come through with Takeo. The first half of this volume has managed to pull off so much character development in a few chapters, and it’s so well-done. (Also Takeo being even more over-protective over his new baby sister is adorable.)
While the second half of the volume focuses more on the requisite first Valentine’s Day for Takeo and Yamamoto (complete with the ongoing joke about how their respective group of friends just want to hang out for every major holiday; I will love it if this series ends with everyone eventually hooking up because “Eh, why not?”), but I also like the promise that Sunakawa might actually get more to do in this series. Don’t get me wrong, I love Sunakawa, and especially his aloof attitude towards life in general and Takeo’s oversized personality, but there are times where he does feel a little boring or just a third wheel. So I think actually giving Sunakawa his own romantic arc might actually end up really good. Especially given that Takeo is the one to first meet the girl who’s been following them, and it’d be an interesting spin on Sunakawa’s role as the one to give advice and helping Takeo out.
As I said, I’m still really enjoying this series, and that this volume starts to branch out from focusing solely on Takeo and Yamamoto only makes me want to know how the rest of the characters are going to be developed from here on out. I don’t think I can really say more than look if you haven’t been reading My Love Story!! already, then you are sorely missing out on a fantastic series. ...more