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review 2017-09-24 05:15
Halloween Bingo - American Horror - irony
Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale - Brown Charles Brockden

 

 

This has been on my Kindle for ages and ages, and on my priority list almost as long.

 

Wieland, or the Transformation: An American Tale was published in 1798, one of the first "significant" novels published by an American.  I'm not sure what that "significant" means, though it's certainly noteworthy that Wieland was both popular and influential.

 

One of the attractions for me, however, is that it's written from the point of view of Clara Wieland, the sister of Theodore for whom the novel is ostensibly titled.

 

The story is more or less straightforward -- Theodore and Clara's father had been something of a religious fanatic, who died apparently of divinely-ordained spontaneous combustion in a "temple" he had built on his property in rural Pennsylvania.  Years later, in the grip of similar fanaticism, Theodore murders his wife and their four children as well as a young female companion.  An itinerant "biloquist" -- ventriloquist -- named Carwin confesses to having provided various mysterious voices but denies using his talent to induce Wieland murder his family.  Theodore eventually realizes what he's done and takes his own life.  The end, sort of.

 

The style is awkward, and I can't say this was a fun read.  The novel purports to be a letter Clara is writing to an unnamed friend -- and I thought I wrote long letters?? -- so it's all tell and no show in a decidedly 18th century manner.  But Clara as a character and narrator often has more in common with a kick-ass heroine of the 21st century than with her gothic descendants of the mid-20th century.  Wealth inherited from her father permits her to live independently, and she even makes plans to reveal her affections to their object rather than wait for him to do so first.

 

Unfortunately, before she has a chance to do that, there's a classic "big misunderstanding" and everything goes to hell.  Sound familiar?  Yeah, the more things change and all that.

 

The ventriloquism device didn't work for me.  Regardless how clever the ventriloquist, there is still the matter of distance across which a voice can be "thrown."  Had Carwin's talent been more smoothly woven with the belief/disbelief that Wieland or Clara or her love interest Pleyel had actually heard divine voices, it might have worked better.

 

But that's a criticism coming from two and a quarter centuries of popular fiction later.

 

The novel's focal point, if you will, is the mass murder of Wieland's family.  This event was based on an actual case that occurred in 1781 in New York, in which the father slaughtered his wife and children and claimed God had told him to do it.  What struck me about Wieland, however, was that the murders don't occur until almost two-thirds of the way through the novel -- 62% on my Kindle.  By this  point, Carwin has played his games, Pleyel has learned of and revealed Carwin's sordid history, and Clara's romantic future has been destroyed by the Big Miz.  Her brother's religiosity is a very minor issue; he's been portrayed as devout, yes, but also studious and a good father and husband.  Unlike his own father, Theodore Wieland hasn't (yet) become a nut job, to use  2017 terminology.

 

Up to then, this has been Clara's story, told by Clara -- as told by Charles Brockden Brown, of course.  Then the men screw it all up.

 

Wieland kills his family then testifies in court that yes, of course, he did it because God commanded him to do it.  How could it be wrong if it was God's will?  So the court decides he's the equivalent of insane -- unable to distinguish right from wrong, essentially -- and condemn him to life in prison.

 

Interestingly -- remember, this was published in 1798 -- Clara's maternal uncle is a physician who argues that Wieland's hallucinations are an indication of mental illness, while Clara argues that they weren't hallucinations at all but rather the product of the evil Carwin's machinations. 

 

It all winds down with Carwin's doleful confession to Clara, tempered by his insistence that he wasn't the one to tell Wieland to kill anyone, and then Wieland himself escapes his prison, threatens Clara, suddenly sees the error of his ways (regains his sanity???), and kills himself.

 

There follows a kind of postscript, in which Clara recounts her life after her brother's death, and while she achieves a certain happiness or maybe at least contentment, almost everyone else has a kind of "life's a bitch and then you die" ending.  Still, the whole thing seemed rather remarkable to be told from the woman's point of view until

 

the very last paragraph.  'Cause yep, it's always the victim's fault.

 

I leave you to moralize on this tale. That virtue should become the victim of treachery is, no doubt, a mournful consideration; but it will not escape your notice, that the evils of which Carwin and Maxwell were the authors, owed their existence to the errors of the sufferers. All efforts would have been ineffectual to subvert the happiness or shorten the existence of the Stuarts, if their own frailty had not seconded these efforts. If the lady had crushed her disastrous passion in the bud, and driven the seducer from her presence, when the tendency of his artifices was seen; if Stuart had not admitted the spirit of absurd revenge, we should not have had to deplore this catastrophe. If Wieland had framed juster notions of moral duty, and of the divine attributes; or if I had been gifted with ordinary equanimity or foresight, the double-tongued deceiver would have been baffled and repelled.

Brown, Charles Brockden. Wieland: or, the Transformation, an American Tale (Kindle Locations 3308-3314). Kindle Edition.

 

 (emphasis mine, above)

 

Wieland is one of those books I'm glad I read because of its importance to the literary history of fiction by, for, and about women.  But I can't say I enjoyed it.  Only recommended to those who are truly dedicated.  (It's not scary or creepy or gory or anything else.)

 

 

 

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review 2017-09-22 23:02
Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas (Happy, Texas) by Carolyn Brown
Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas (Happy, Texas) - Carolyn Brown

 

Scrumptious.  Serious subjects, tender sweet moments and new beginnings are packaged inside this heartbreaker of a read.  Life has not been kind to Nash or Kasey.  Trapped in his own personal hell, Nash keeps to himself, grieving the man he used to be and despising the one he has become. Until a couple sweet faces and a beautiful woman turn this beast into a family man.  Long, Tall Cowboy Christmas resonates, because we all have regrets and painful memories that litter our life. The key is to not let fear dictate our choices and hold us back, but push for something better.

 

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review 2017-09-21 13:34
Book Review - Lottery in Paradise by Deborah Brown (Florida Keys Mystery Series Book 11) plus $25 Amazon/Paypal Giveaway
Lottery in Paradise (Paradise Series) (Volume 11) - Deborah Brown

The 11th time we meet Madison and her crazy band of friends and family who take us on yet another rip roaring adventure through Florida Keys.  This book can easily be read on its own as the author gives us the resume of the other adventures and describes the characters to a tee.

The writer pulls it out of the bag again, and engaging story with innovate ideas and plots, with lots of humour and emotions thrown in.  The characters become more endearing and the story is fast paced and by the time you get to the end you are wanting more.  You just lose yourself in the descriptive writing and imagine yourself being right alongside our heroines.

The real gem of these books is the fact that to do what is right sometimes you have to step over the boundaries of law enforcement and you are kept on tender hooks wondering whether they will get away with it or will be caught in the act.

I love this series of books as the characters grow from strength to strength and gain a place in your heart.  Roll on the next adventure!

Source: beckvalleybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/09/book-review-lottery-in-paradise-by.html
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review 2017-09-18 16:24
Nine Coaches Waiting / Mary Stewart
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

Read to fill the “Romantic Suspense” square of my 2017 Halloween Bingo card.

This Bingo was a great excuse to revisit an old favourite, which only been slight worn by the passage of time. It is very much a gothic romance, with the heroine having the usual attributes—she is an orphan, she needs to pay her way in the world, and she is hired by a French family to school a young nobleman in English. The young Comte is nine years old and it takes a bit for Linda Martin to make friends with him and get him acting like a real small boy, but they manage to make the connection just before sinister things begin to happen. Has Linda been chosen because she is an orphan with no real connections in France? Will she be the scapegoat when young Philippe is killed?

Add the complication that Linda has fallen in love with Raoul, her employer’s son, who manages another large family estate. Raoul is as sophisticated as Linda is naïve, which causes much of the romantic tension, as the reader wonders whether he is serious or just playing with Linda. Stewart actually uses Cinderella imagery to reassure the reader—there is an Easter ball, of course, for which Linda sews her own dress and during which she dances with Raoul and they agree to become engaged. She has promised to visit her charge, Philippe, in “the dead of night” so he can feel included in the event, so she & Raoul take a “midnight feast” pilfered from the buffet table up to the little boy’s room. On her way up to the nursey, Linda’s shoe comes undone and she almost loses it, completing the Cinderella reference.

Nor is that the only literary reference. The book’s title comes from the poem The Revenger’s Tragedy, a tale of lust and ambition suited to the story line of Nine Coaches Waiting. Each of the chapters is referred to as a coach and Linda takes some kind of conveyance (train, car, plane) in each. The poem also includes a tempter’s list of pleasures: coaches, the palace, banquets, etc., all of which decadent indulgences may lure our heroine to overlook the attempts on her student’s life.

One of the joys of the book for me was the description of the French countryside and communities. These descriptive interludes extend the tension of both the mystery & the romance and give the reader some time to assimilate the clues and try to see the road ahead. It also gave me breathing room to assess the very whirlwind nature of the romance, something that I would usually find unrealistic & therefore off-putting (and which I never noticed as a teenager reading this novel).


I am delighted to report that I enjoyed this novel almost as much forty years later as I did when I first read it.

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text 2017-09-15 21:35
Weekend Reading
Grendel - John Gardner
Misery - Stephen King
Akata Witch - Nnedi Okorafor
Nine Coaches Waiting (Rediscovered Classics) - Sandra Brown,Mary Stewart

The weather has cooled down here in Calgary considerably.  I haven't any big plans for the weekend, so I hope to do some baking and read some Halloween Bingo books.

 

I've read part of both Grendel and Misery, so I just want to finish them up.  Akata Witch is the next book due at the library (with holds so I can't renew).  And I think that Nine Coaches Waiting will be an excellent Friday evening book.

 

Happy weekend, everyone!!

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