I first came across this title when I was doing research for one of my classes back in college, thought it sounded interesting—didn’t realize that Alcott’s Gothic work was published—and made a mental note to look it up when I had the time. At the time, I was overworked and eventually forgot about it, until I saw a copy at a flea market a couple months ago. And I’m really glad I found it!
I can understand why Alcott couldn’t get this book published in 1866, as the subject matter is a bit risqué if you compare it to the sensation/Gothic fiction that was in circulation at the time. In fact, like Hardy’s The Pursuit of the Well-Beloved and The Well-Beloved, two surviving manuscripts of Alcott’s novel exist: the original and a heavily edited version, with this published version being a mixture of both texts. Also interesting to note that the book was first published only 15 years ago, about 130 years after it was written.A Long Fatal Love Chase
has a rather good story that reads like a combination of Tess of the D’Urbervilles
, Jane Eyre
, and the film Duel in the Sun
with Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones (my favorite of Greg’s films, as he plays such a vile rogue, a role that’s totally out of character for him). The title of the book’s rather “subtle”—*
— but, you know, it doesn’t really matter, as the events, descriptions and dialogue leading up to the inevitable finale make up for that initial early reveal.
Rosamond, the novel’s protagonist, resembles Jane Eyre in regards to temperament and moral standards. She’s strong, with an independent will and won’t, under any circumstances, conform to the demands of others. She does what she feels is right and just. Rosamond also fits the description that Hardy makes about his character Tess: “A Pure Woman Faithfully Presented.” Like Tess, Rosamond finds herself at a crossroads, where she must choose her path; and once that choice is made, there’s no going back. The path Rosamond takes leads to pain and heartache, but she does what she can to make things right for herself and for others. Her decisions are purely made.
Philip Tempest is certainly a dangerous rogue, but he has a certain appeal when he comes onto the scene. In that way, he reminds me of Gregory Peck’s character Lewt McCanles in Duel in the Sun
. Lewt’s actions are so horrible and repugnant, but he has a certain charisma and allure that draws you in, making you susceptible to those desires and sudden whims of his. It was understandable that Jennifer Jones’s character became vulnerable to his advances. The same can be said for Tempest and Rosamond. Tempest has that same pull, his words are coaxing, his initial offers enticing. Their battle of wills are like verbal duels; you definitely understand Rosamond’s dilemma and realize the ultimate strength she has—the strength of her moral code as she desperately tries to maintain her independent will—in her many efforts to spurn his constant advances.
The writing, for the most part, was good and entertaining for a sensation novel, though there were a couple instances that were questionable, such as Rosamond’s immediate faith and trust in Lito’s mother, and her grandfather’s part in this whole situation, which leaves you to wonder how much he really knew beforehand, and how much he could have prevented. Also the ending was rather rushed, forcing me to go back and reread the last two pages. Regardless, I really liked this book, and look forward to reading more of Alcott’s Gothic fiction.