The Short Story on The Sunday Salon

Extracted from

Plots and Counterplots: More Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott

I came across this book as I was hunting down something to read from the 1870’s for last year’s decades challenge.  There’s nothing from the 1870’s in it but this book became an irresistible addition to the TBR as

a) 2008 was the year I discoverd gothic and 19th century sensationalist fiction

b) the idea of  Louisa May Alcott  penning thrillers is an oxymoron.  Rather was an oxymoron for it transpires that besides the rather twee “Little Women” series, she wrote a whole bookcase full of  adult gothic, sensationalist and fantasy stories and novels.  Phew, there’s enough there to keep me going for a decade.

So I started with the story with the most intriguing title.  Who can resist the dark secrets promised by a skeleton in the cupboard?  An intrigue there is in what is quite a subversive tale.  Nineteenth-century fiction is replete with madwomen in the proverbial attic.  Mrs Rochester, the yellow wallpaper lady, etc.  Alcott dishes up a madman.  In fact, this short story is almost a role reversal of Jane Eyre, with additional treachery in the form of the lovebirds’ “best” friends.  Plots and counterplots indeed!

As I make my way through more of these stories and C19th sensationalist fiction (which I shall because an obsession is in bud), I shall have to track the Germanic influence.  Both here and in Elizabeth Gaskell’s The Grey Woman (incidentally the only two C19th sensationalist stories I have read)  Germany features in both.  That’s quite a coincidence.

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