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A Modern Mephistopheles by Louisa May Alcott

A Modern Mephistopheles (1877)

by Louisa May Alcott

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Despite there being only four main characters, it is difficult to assign titles like Villain and Hero. As soon as you side with one character, a piece of information is revealed that makes you question your loyalty. This book will keep you guessing.

This book was slow to read, being more of a emotional thriller. ( )
  Sovranty | Aug 7, 2015 |
Before reading this I was expecting something as good as, and similar to, "A Long Fatal Love Chase" or some of LMA's superb thrillers; however, this novella is one of few works by Ms Alcott that I found tedious.

I knew beforehand that when "A Modern Mephistopheles" was first published it was part of an anonymous author series and LMA wasn't revealed as the true writer until some years afterwards. At the time people who knew LMA had made comments to her regarding "A Modern Mephistopheles", such as, "I know it can't have been you who wrote it." Indeed, it's *nothing* like LMA, and I don't just mean it differs from her lighter works of fiction; I mean it's a world away from all her darker works too.

I just couldn't get into this. It bored me. Because of my respect for the author I continued to the end, although had it been full-length novel as opposed to a novella, I would've had to give up.

Owing to the occasional flash of interest, plus a decent ending to an otherwise mundane tale, I've rated this two stars instead of one. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Jun 18, 2015 |
Many people are not aware that along with writing classic children's morality books, such as Little Women, Louisa May Alcott much preferred writing sensation thrillers.

This book, which is Alcott's only completed full novel in this genre, tells the story of a young writer, who makes a sort of devil's compact with a rcih, bored old man. The old gentlman uses a variety of means to corrupt his charge, including the corruption of the writer's young and innocent wife.

For me, I enjoyed this book far more than Little Women, in which the morality seemed to get in the way of the story (though I did love the characters as a girl). A Modern Mephistopheles offered sharper writing with interesting characters, who make mistakes and suffer for them. Only the too pure wife seemed two dimensional to me. She never seemed to grow in the book beyond this girlish purity. ( )
2 vote andreablythe | Sep 22, 2009 |
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Without, a midwinter twilight, where wandering snowflakes eddied in the bitter wind between a leaden sky and frost-bound earth.
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Book description
"A Modern Mephistopheles" began as a rejected sensational novel and was revised by Alcott for anonymous publication in 1877. Its subject, style, and language mark radicial deviations from those expected of Alcott. Although she is more well-known to younger readers, this republication of some of her lesser-known works have aroused renewed critical interest in her adult fiction. "A Modern Mephistopheles", which was originally published pseudonymously in 1877. It is a Gothic novel about a failed poet who makes a Faustian bargain with his tempter.

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553377957, Paperback)

This chilling tale of lust, deception and greed, first published anonymously in 1877, allowed Alcott the chance to exercise "the lurid style" she believed was her "natural ambition". A novel of psychological complexity that touches on the controversial subjects of sexuality and drug use, A Modern Mephistopheles is a penetrating and powerful study of human evil and its appalling consequences.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:18 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Known for her beloved children's classics, Louisa May Alcott's true zeal was for writing sensational literature, which she chose to have published anonymously or under a pseudonym. Her favorite of these works was A Modern Mephistopheles. This chilling tale of greed, lust, and deception opens on a midwinter night when Felix Canaris, a despairing writer about to take his own life, is saved by a knock at the door. The mysterious visitor, a Jasper Helwyze, promises Felix fame and fortune in return for his complete devotion. Helwyze then plots to corrupt the overly ambitious Felix by cleverly manipulating the beautiful and innocent Gladys. And when Helwyze decides that he wants Gladys for himself, Felix must defend the adoring young woman from the destructive influence of his diabolical patron.… (more)

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