I have this incredible deep-rooted fascination with obscure writers and this time around it takes me into that phenomenon known as the Dime Novel. TheI have this incredible deep-rooted fascination with obscure writers and this time around it takes me into that phenomenon known as the Dime Novel. The sort of gothic-ish, romance-ish dime novel exemplified in this book was likely the choice of "young working-class women in particular," even though these women were sometimes encouraged to read better books. For more on the Dime Novel, and for a longer post, you can click here to get to my reading journal.
In The Ghost of Hurricane Hills, we have a story that just oozes Gothic; there's no castle here to speak of, but there is a "haunted house," a lost treasure, a journey to the underground and definitely a heroine. It begins with the dying wishes of an elderly man named Colonel Charnley. Evidently, he had built his fortune "on the ruins" of another man who had married the only woman Charnley ever loved. Now that Charnley is at his end, he has left his vast fortune to the daughter of that woman, who is now an orphan living in Florida. He plans to send her to school, and not reveal that she is worth a fortune until her education is finished. This doesn't make his protégé very happy at all; young Frank Norman had banked on having that money all to himself. Charnley, though, realizes that making Norman his heir would have made him "indolent and purse-proud," and leaves him only five grand. As Charnley draws his last breath, he calls for his lawyer, Barclay Hampden, telling him quietly that Norman is not to marry the girl, ever. Eventually, Charnley and Norman find young Amy, share the plans to get her set up in school, and she's thrilled at the prospect. On the way home, the trio makes a brief stop for Norman's benefit, as he wants to visit his boyhood home. It seems that he has some sort of "possible wealth" hidden there, and intends to search for it. This detour is the start of a terrifying adventure for young Amy, who while visiting the run-down house that has a reputation for being haunted by a ghostly "woman in gray," is visited by an apparition that she follows into the woods. Her pursuit ends up with her being lost; although a major search effort is made, Norman and a heartbroken Hampden have to eventually admit that she has simply vanished. So pretty much right away the reader is presented with several mysteries, which only deepen as years go by.
While I won't give away what actually happens in this book, the subtext runs on several different levels. Justice for wronged women is one biggie, while another line explores how women had to be hidden away rather than be out in the world because of some past misdeed. Marriage for love or for suitability among the upper classes also comes into play as does good old upper-class materialism and greed. In telling her story, it also seems to me that the author also makes great use of the Eurydice myth here, especially in having her Eurydice emerge "as a shadow, waiting to come to light to become a full woman again." Sadly, I can't divulge exactly how or why this comes about, but it is about as obvious to me as the steam rising off of my coffee at the moment.
I get that not everyone is into this old stuff as much as I am, but I can't help it. I love it, and for me, the more obscure, the better, and this is a good one. This book may not be great literature but it and others like it are definitely part of American literary/reading heritage and history as well as a part of American women's history. Just because it will probably never end up on a course syllabus somewhere doesn't mean it's not worth reading. ...more
Despite the "to-read" category, this book is just not for me. So, if anyone in the US would like my advanced reader copy, please leave a message and IDespite the "to-read" category, this book is just not for me. So, if anyone in the US would like my advanced reader copy, please leave a message and I'll be happy to give it to you and pay postage. Someone who will appreciate it more than I would should give this book a home. ...more
For now (although I will come back to my thoughts on this book a little over a week from now since I'm leaving soon), this book is definitely not a poFor now (although I will come back to my thoughts on this book a little over a week from now since I'm leaving soon), this book is definitely not a pop history for the masses sort of thing, so if you're thinking about it and expecting an Erik Larson sort of thing, this is not it. However, if like me you enjoy a well-researched, well-written history then you've come to the right place. The story that unfolds here is tragic and downright depressing and addresses, as the dustjacket blurb notes, "a key missing piece of American history."
As I said, more next week, but the bottom line is that it's an excellent read. ...more