Monday, March 29, 2010

Behind a Mask

Louisa May Alcott is well known as the writer of Little Women, but she is far more prolific than was previously known. Over 35 years ago literature scholars have discovered that Ms. Alcott wrote under a pseudonym, A. M. Barnard. This information was found in one letter that Alcott wrote where she mentions the pseudonym. Scholars have long suspected she did write under a pseudonym but could never prove it until Madeleine Stern found the telling letter in the 1970s. Because Alcott's father could not hold down a job and squandered her mother's inheritance, Louisa took up writing to pay the bills. Her stories was gothic thrillers and romances with murder and intrigue. You could call it pulp fiction, in a way. Alcott wrote these stories to support her family and herself, but did not want to be connected to them in any other way.

I recently borrowed Behind a Mask, a collection of thrillers by Louisa May Alcott. The book contains 4 short stories, of which I only read 3. My favorite of the stories is The Mysterious Key and What it Opened. This story was the most developed and had interesting characters. It also had a somewhat happy ending, even with tragedy. There are moments of darkness that is rather puzzling and I was left guessing true motives until the end. Behind a Mask and Pauline's Punishment both were very dark stories with dark endings. I tried to read the Abbot's Ghost but just couldn't follow any of it.

I rarely read short story collections but I am glad I did in this case. I learned a lot about Louisa May Alcott and I can appreciate her writing skill even more. I imagine more stories will be discovered in time by literary scholars and we will be able to discover again a talented writer.

The books I select for review are books which I personally select from my local library. I do not receive any reimbursement from authors or publishers or free books. I do provide links to Amazon as a convenience to the readers of this blog. I do earn a small referral pittance which is not even enough to buy a soda.

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