The latest Project Gutenberg release courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library is another novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller: The Wooing of Leola, a turn-of-the-20th-century romantic melodrama. Written later in the author’s career and harder to find than some of her more successful and widely read works, it nonetheless displays many of her signature interests.
To an even greater extent than the earlier Pretty Geraldine, the novel is set in and around Alderson, West Virginia, Mrs. Miller’s home town for the majority of her writing career. Another personal touch is the way in which the narrative reflects its author’s love of poetry: much of the story here is structured around poems by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, including “Youth’s Antiphony” and “Chimes” (though none of the quoted poetry is attributed).
The book also serves as another example of its author’s interest in incorporating contemporary scientific developments into her fiction (such as x-rays in Dainty’s Cruel Rivals or blood transfusions in Kathleen’s Diamonds). One of the novel’s characters is interested in alchemical pursuits such as the transmutation of lead into gold, and his cruelty is driven by a single-minded desire to acquire enough money “to purchase the smallest specimen of a newly discovered mineral called radium, to which was ascribed the most remarkable properties ever heard of.” The fact that he works in a stone tower with the help of a hunchbacked assistant also anticipates mad scientist clichés that would persist throughout the 20th century.
If you’re interested in learning more, the entire book is available for free online reading, or download in popular eBook formats, through Project Gutenberg.
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