Now THIS is a classic that people should be reading. Scandal. Intrigue. Drama. Seriously, I don’t know why other people haven’t read it. I was glad to see at least one other person (Lee Ann at Lily Oak Books) has read it as part of the Classics Club! This is my halfway point of my Classics Club journey so YAY Book 50!
These are nothing like Little Women, Little Men and Jo’s Boys.Lee Ann rightfully compares these to books by the Brontë’s. I can definitely see this when it comes to Anne Brontë’s works, but I haven’t quite finished reading all of Charlotte’s. I’m struggling to figure out what it’s most like and really what comes to mind is something more along the lines of Anna Karenina or Madame Bovary.
Whether this is a novella or a short story, it doesn’t really matter because Alcott packs a huge punch in this barely 100 page work. As I was reading it I thought the foreshadowing and the protagonists’ tongue-in-cheek sassiness was a bit too much, but really it was Alcott showing how masterful she is of the human condition.
As much as Little Women represents the quintessential mid-19th century New England town, Behind A Mask represent an incredible insight into the experiences of all types of women from the 19th century: governesses, landed gentry, actresses and even children. In the same way that the Brontë’s wrote about things so far outside of their experience, I want to know where Alcott got this story from because the duplicity and the deviousness of Muir was amazing. Seriously read the first quote in additional quotes below and then if you’re not going to read the book then read the last lane. The succinctness of the novel was divine.
Recommendation: Read. This. Work. I haven’t even touched the surface of the feminism, the politics of gender or even societal expectations. The only thing that kept me from reading the book in one sitting was my pesky day job. Even when I wasn’t reading it, all I could think about was how the book would end or what would happen next.
Opening Line: “Has she come?”
Closing Line: “Pausing an instant on the threshold before she vanished from their sight, she looked backward, and fixing on Gerald the strange glance he remembered well, she said in her penetrating voice, ‘Is not the last scene better than the first?'” (Whited out to avoid spoilers, highlight to read.)
Additional Quotes from Behind A Mask
“Her eyes were gray, but at that instant they seemed black with some strong emotion of anger, pride, or defiance. A curious smile passed over her face as she bowed, and said in her penetrating voice, ‘Thanks. The last scene shall be still better.'” (Loc. 69)
“Come, the curtain is down, so I may be myself for a few hours, if actresses ever are themselves.” (Loc. 137)
“She had been lovely once, happy, innocent, and tender; but nothing of all this remained to the gloomy woman who leaned there brooding over some wrong, or loss, or disappointment which had darkened all her life.” (Loc. 141)
“I’ve neither beauty, money, nor rank, yet every foolish boy mistakes my frank interest for something warmer, and makes me miserable. It is my misfortune. Think of me what you will, but beware of me in time, for against my will I may do you harm.” (Loc. 645)
“Under the ice I see fire, and warn you to beware lest it prove a volcano.” (Loc. 800)
“I am a witch, and one day my disguise will drop away and you will see me as I am, old, ugly, bad and lost. Beware of me in time. I’ve warned you. Now love me at your peril.” (Loc. 1256)
“For a few minutes she seemed paralyzed; but the native energy of the woman forbade utter despair, till the last hope was gone. Frail as that now was, she still clung to it tenaciously, resolving to win the game in defiance of everything.” (Loc. 1351)