Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Long Fatal Love Chase: Review

The grandmother of stalker stories with roots in obsession. A Long Fatal Love Chase is a story about the dark side of love and a passionate persistence that drives a man to hound the woman he claims to adore to her death. Louisa May Alcott originally wrote the story for magazine serialization under the name of A. M. Barnard and it wasn't published as a complete novel until 1995 because the tale was considered too sensational to be published during Alcott's lifetime.

The impetuous, head-strong young Rosamond Vivian has felt like a captive in her grandfather's house since her parents died. His indifference makes her believe that he does not care for her at all and she longs to escape to a life of freedom and adventure. But she despairs of ever fulfilling her dream. Then, a stranger who resembles Mephistopheles himself comes to her remote island home and she finds herself spellbound and ready to confide in the mysterious Philip Tempest. She tells him that she would "do anything get out of [her] prison." And he takes her at his word. He wins her hand from the grandfather in a game of cards and promises to marry her when he takes her away.

She spends a short glorious time enjoying her new found freedom and learns to love her dark, brooding husband. But all is not as it seems--and soon Tempest destroys her idyllic illusions and she finds that she now lives in the midst of lies, cruelty, and unbearable heartbreak. What she discovers about the man who swears to love her makes her flee from him. She hides under assumed names--in France, Italy, and Germany. She takes refuge in the homes of friends and even in a nunnery, but wherever she goes he pursues her until finally he must follow her to grave if he is to continue his pursuit.

Alcott's story is quite advanced for her time. She writes about an independent and spirited heroine whose story wrestles with such themes as women's right  to be free, strong female friendships, the dynamics of abusive and twisted relationships, divorce, bigamy, murder, and celibacy. While on some levels, Rosamond is the classic Gothic heroine swept away by the handsome, brooding mysterious man, she is no shrinking violet. It isn't unusual for the heroine to discover that the brooding man is really Prince Charming in disguise and everyone lives happily every after. Not so here. Tempest is really quite nasty and he doesn't mind what anguish he causes as long as he can bend his spirited love to his will--the very fire of spirit and independence that first draws him to her is the flame he must quench if he really will possess her again.  It really is amazing that Alcott wrote such a dark tale at a young age--a story so different from the well-known Little Women.

A Long Fatal Love Chase lacks a bit of polish and there are portions that seem somewhat over-the-top with melodrama--perhaps if the story had been published as a novel in Alcott's lifetime it would have been edited. As it stands, the work is a good examination of the obsessive nature and the bargains we all make for our freedom and independence. A good, solid story.  ★★★


fredamans said...

I am so intrigued by Rosamund. Though you gave it 3 stars, I would read this one. :-)

Great review!

Bev Hankins said...

Freda: Three isn't a bad rating--it means a good, solid read. Just not out of the ordinary wonderful. And...the book is going in the prize box, so there's always the chance that you could win it in one of the challenges.