In my last post, I mentioned that Playgirls in Love was the first book on my to-read list of the summer. Well, A Rebellious Heroine by John Kendrick Bangs actually came before that. In fact, I read it back in the winter, when I probably should have been reading something else, most likely of the school-related variety.
A Rebellious Heroine was my winter holiday present to myself. It had featured visibility in Kaleidoscope’s “OLD” case, so called because most of the books in that case are from before the twentieth century. This one makes the cut by four years as it was published in 1896. It features excellent quality paper, wide margins all around, glossy plate illustrations, and a front cover design which includes puffy sleeves.
More than that, for once I read about a heroine I could relate to. Marguerite Andrews runs late in the morning, and is not impressed with lazy plot devices. She subscribes to the late nineteenth century “new woman” frame of mind, yet seems to be trapped in a dime novel romance.
This vivid and exciting character is framed by one Stuart Harley, who is trying to write a mediocre novel for a cheap publishing company. The reader is subjected to Harley’s long pompous speeches about his writing style with the gentlemen at the club, and how very realistic he is in his writing. This realism comes to bite him in the butt when he creates a character that won’t play along with his plots, and his own compulsions won’t let it go. Each chapter falls to pieces, which starts off slowly at the novel’s exposition and then accelerates with each successive failure.
It is clear how this novel will end long before it does, but that does not stop the book from being quite enjoyable. The meta-fictional setup is rather intriguing, the pages go by quickly, and it this novel can be read intermittently between large assignments, which is a mid-semester perk. Although this novel is a bit early in my collecting scope, I appreciate its insight into late nineteenth century romances and dime novels. Between the jokes the 1930s characters make about these books and all the jabs A Rebellious Heroine takes at such publications, I’m adding at least a few such texts to my to-read list. When I will actually get around to reading them, I do not know.
Copies of John Kendrick Bangs’ works are available for purchase here.