Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Sunday, April 1, 2012

She by H. Rider Haggard

She by H. Rider Haggard (1887, 250 pages)

Pulp Magazine Cover 
 She by H. Rider Haggard (1856 to 1925, UK) is not part of the Irish Short Stories Week event but the novel really does have a direct connection to a very important Irish Short Story writer, Elizabeth Bowen which you can see her in story "Mysterious Kor".  (There is a very good post on this story by semi-fictional.  I will explain the connection with Bowen shortly and I think it is a strong one. )

Haggard wrote a lot of adventure stories (you can buy a kindle edition of his writings that has 50 works included and you can download She as a kindle from Amazon for $10.95 or you can download it for free from Manybooks.  Basically I would say do not pay for kindle editions of classics until you have looked around to see if you can find it for free.)

If you do not like the Indiana Jones movies you will probably think this book is a bit silly but it is one of the best selling books of all time with estimated sales of 84 million in 44 languages so Haggard must have done something right!  OK I do like at least first of those movies and yes this book is a little silly or maybe it is meant for bookish teenage boys, which I was a long time ago, but it is a very enjoyable read that can suck you into its world.

The story told in the first person by a Cambridge University Professor who received as a dying bequest from an acquaintance the obligation to raise the man's son and when he reaches maturity open a mysterious box that will allow him to unravel a great mystery.  Along with this bequest there comes enough money to raise the boy in style.  I am not inclined to give a plot outline (if you want home work help just check Wikipedia) but basically the man and the now 25 year old boy are sent on a quest to Africa where they meet a tribe of  natives ruled by a woman referred to only  as "She Who Must Be Obeyed".   As things proceed it seems she might be 2000 years old etc.   The treatment of the tribes people is racist and right out of the white man's burden play book.   Nevertheless the book is well written, very famous and kind of entertaining.

Elizabeth Bowen loved this book.  (My source on this is Virginia Glendinning's excellent biography of Bowen).   It was an important part of her internal fantasy structure   I think as she walked through London at night she imagined herself in the mysterious city of Kor, where much of the action in She takes place.    I cannot prove it but if you look at the romantic life of Bowen  you can she how she was also  somehow caught up in this.  There are only a few pics of Bowen to be found online, all looking very severe and with a "no nonsense" expression.   I think this may suggest she was somehow prudish or dull but nothing could be further from the truth.   I think I will post on some of her ghost stories during Gothic and Ghosts Week.

I will post on a few more works of fiction and non-fiction during the very extended Irish Short Story week and where I can so so I will explore any connections that seem viable.

Mel u


Sarah said...

I really want to read the biography of Elizabeth Bowen now as she sounds like such a fascinating person and I want to know why this novel was so important to her - it seems so different from the books of hers I've read! Thanks for linking to my post.

Unknown said...

I enjoyed She much more than I thought I would, and much more than it has a right to be enjoyed. I conisder it a bad book that is lots of fun. Most of the fun is intended, too.

ds said...

Okay, "The Mysterious Kor" will be the next Bowen story I read. And on the list. Thank you.

Caroline said...

I'm waiting for the biography by Glendinning. Meanwhile I received a cop of Love's Civil War, edited by Glendinning with the letters of Elizabeth Bowen and the diary of Charles Ritchie her longtime lover.
It looks so good.
I read "She" when I was 16 and loved the book. It was very important for me as well but I forgot about it until you mentioned it on Sarah's post.
I'm really in the mood to read more of her and explore her.

Lisa Hill said...

How fascinating! (Prompted by Rumpole's She Who Must Be Obeyed), I read She ages ago, and like you, I enjoyed it as a Boys Own Adventure. But fancy Bowen being enamoured of it?!

Mel u said...

Sarah-maybe we can consider posting as a joint project on some of the better regarded Ghost Stories of Bowen

C. B. James-I enjoyed it a lot also-if you like Indiana Jones movies I think there is a good chance a reader will enjoy this book-why not consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week

ds-"Mysterious Kor" is a really good story, those just getting into Bowen's short stories have a lot to look forward to

Caroline-I want to read the book you spoke about also and will look forward to your reaction to it,

Lisa Hill-thanks for your first comment on my blog-why not consider joining us for Irish Short Story Week, if it is among your interests this year I opened it up for short stories by Irish/Australian writers like Barbara Baynton-who deserves a much wider readership than she has

Patience_Crabstick said...

I've never heard of it, but it sounds hugely entertaining. I'm trying to get into Elizabeth Bowen. I recently read The Heat of the Day, but found it to be difficult. I'd like to read more by her.

shaunag said...

I am a big Bowen fan but haven't read the biography nor have I read "She" ... off to download now! Thanks, Mel.