Yesterday on my lunch hour I completed my first book of the new year. (I have a couple more ‘in progress’ that should be done in a week or so, so I’m not off to as slow of a start this year as that sounds.) I wrote earlier that I picked this book in part because of its brevity and the name of the title character, but there are other things to recommend it.
The title character is the monarch of an imaginary European “country” (Grunewald – by which Stevenson’s descriptions is painted as a classic, idyllic setting) at an undetermined point in history. Prince Otto is a pleasant enough fellow, and somewhat easy for the reader to like. His problem is that he hasn’t much interest in his princely duties and would rather spend his days hunting and leaving the matters of state in the hands of his beautiful wife, Seraphina, and his scheming minister, Gondremark.
My favorite character in the story, however, was the courtier, Madame Von Rosen – a veteran in the ways of courtly intrigue AND manipulations of the male of the species. Indeed, it was unclear to me for most of the book just “whose side she is on.” I admit also that I didn’t find the first half of this book especially gripping, BUT when the intrigue steps up the novel becomes quite the page turner.
If there is one theme of the book that struck me, it is that many of the characters are deluded in how they think they are viewed by others, and much of the book is a series of revelations and realizations by these characters. I think Stevenson wraps it up nicely, though, and I’d like to think the characters have settled into their true natures (and awareness of them) by the end of the book.
I’m contemplating an additional post on this book relating to some of the additions to and strengthening of my vocabulary which it wrought. That’s another great thing about older works – you are introduced to, or reminded of, so many great words that have fallen out of common usage.
I’ve also written before about how much I enjoy visiting these “lesser known” (to us non-scholars anyway) works of famous authors. If you’ve read them and enjoyed them, it’s almost as if you have a “secret friend,” and that you are one of only a select few who have known the pleasure of their company. But you know others would like them too if only they were introduced. So, readers, may I present to you “Prince Otto of Grunewald…”. 🙂
This book is in the public domain and can be found free on the Internet in many places. One of which is below: