Pauline's Passion and Punishment (by L M Alcott)

I have very much enjoyed most of Louisa M Alcott's books, including her best-known series ('Little Women' and its sequels) and 'An old-fashioned girl'. I was pleased to discover that some of her shorter novels are available for the Kindle, although I have never seen them in print, and even more pleased to discover that, since they're long out of copyright, they're free to download.

However, I am now beginning to see why some of Alcott's works have not been revived in print form. 'Pauline's Passion and Punishment' is, I think, what would have been called a 'gothic' novella in its time. It's a rather depressing tale of unrequited love, leading to bitterness, anger, and betrayal.

Pauline, heroine of the book, but not a particularly likeable one, learns that the man she loves is married to someone else She is comforted by Manuel, a man a few years younger than she, who has loved her for a long time. She agrees to marry him... but he knows that she only cares for him as a friend, and thinks of him as a brother rather than a husband. As readers, we know that she has ulterior motives too, wanting revenge on the man she thought she would marry.

Alas, there were no redeeming features to this book. Pauline shows an increasingly vicious desire for revenge. This leads, in a shocking climax, to a lifetime of regret. I like books to have some kind of positive conclusion, but the ending of this, when it came, was sudden and abrupt.

I suppose the story might be considered a moral tale, pointing out the evils of bitterness and the disasters befalling a lust for revenge. But personally, I just found it depressing. Not recommended - but at least I didn't pay anything for it.

Note that Amazon links given are to editions of the book which have been published recently, presumably due to the expiry of the copyright. But I would recommend downloading the free e-book edition of 'Pauline's Passion and Punishment' from Project Gutenberg if you wish to read it.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 28th April 2011

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