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The Primrose Path

Bram Stoker

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   I can add Bram Stoker to the list of authors whose novels I have almost completed, at least the ones that are available. Here is the Bram Stoker website, and any novel or story that's not there is probably not available. The unfortunate part is that these are PDF files that are photocopies of the original, and a vast number of words have letters that are either unreadable or just plain not there, so reading becomes a challenge called "What word is this?" However, at least for me, after a few pages my mind automatically filled in the word, but there were a few places that I never did figure out what Stoker meant. But it in no way was particularly detrimental to understanding the story. However, as I was writing this review, I had the PDF open on my desktop, and didn't notice any reading problems, so perhaps it is the way my Kindle app is displaying it. Here's a few more links, then more about the novel.
   This is the Wikipedia page for Stoker, with a long bibliography of his works including those that are not found on the Stoker site. He also wrote a number of story collections, short stories, and other works including non-fiction. Many of the stories I have also read. I own a few paper books of Stoker's works, plus Project Gutenberg and some other sources also make some of his works available for free, including Internet Archive, but many of their digitized works are unreadable, and their PDF is the same as the one found on the Stoker site. I noticed since I downloaded his works from the Stoker site several years ago that Project Gutenberg has added more to their Stoker page, so I have just downloaded them. I am sure they will be neatly digitized and recommend going there first, definitely for The Lair of the White Worm, which is the original 1911 version, not the abridged version from 1925, which is not worth reading. Here is the Wikipedia page for this present novel, which includes a link to download the audiobook at LibriVox. And last, here is my Bram Stoker Index Page, where you can read more about him, plus the reviews I have written on his books so far.
   Dracula, by the way, is not my favorite Stoker novel. That honor is awarded to The Man. The Mystery of the Sea, ties for second with Dracula, but I have liked them all except for Miss Betty and this one, which was Stoker's first attempt at novel-writing, and is certainly the work of a novice. The idea is good, but the characters are quite unreal, unconvincing and rather pathetic. It was written in 1875 when Stoker was twenty-eight, published in the Irish periodical The Shamrock, in five installments. Though the hardback is128 pages, the PDF is only 27, and each page is two columns. In any case, it is a novella and quick read.
   Since the book is so short, and really quite simple, this will be an unusually short review. It begins as the O'Sullivans, Jerry and Katey, are celebrating the christening of their third child, so they have invited some "friends" and relatives. I put "friends" in quotes because these are a bunch of really obnoxious people, especially the cousin, Mr. Muldoon, and Jerry's mother's assistant in her haberdashery business, Miss M'Anaspie. Also included is Jerry's mother, Katey's two sisters and their fiancés, and a good friend, Mr. Parnell. Miss M'Anaspie is a smart-ass that manages to say something insulting every time she opens her mouth, and ditto for Muldoon. They begin coldly, but as the evening progresses, their chill begins to warm—quite a bit, in fact. Muldoon, by the way, is very wealthy. When they begin to eat, they all stuff themselves and the atmosphere is less quarrelsome. The sisters insist on doing the cleanup, then Miss M'Anaspie, who is neither wanted nor needed, joins them, and even worse, now Muldoon wants to be with her, so he helps, breaking Katey's dinnerware in the process.
   The after-dinner conversation again causes chills. Mr. Parnell, who is a good speaker, goes on and on about the subject of drinking, and how it turns people to evil and ruins them. Muldoon gets angry, in fact, the whole party gets angry so Jerry tries to change the subject about moving to England—London in particular. It was something he has been considering, in order to make more money, but it is a subject Katey dreads. They are comfortable in Ireland and there's no reason to leave. However, Jerry has a "friend" in London who is nothing but a drunkard and a scoundrel, who keeps urging him to move.
   Well, the behavior of ALL these people seems juvenile at best and, as stated above, totally unreal at worse. In any case, Jerry, who has always had a wonderful relationship with his loving wife, goes behind her back and makes plans to move, based on Sebright's letters, who has gotten him a "good-paying" job as a theatre carpenter. So he agrees, then tells Katey, who is always determined to stand by her husband. His mother is less understanding. Muldoon says he will throw a party for them, as they must leave in two weeks. The party is dreadful, everybody is angry and leaves early, and Muldoon is mad at them. OMG!
   Anyways, the O'Sullivans board a ship and in three days are sailing up the Thames. The theatre is in a very poor part of town and is squalid and dirty. But Jerry and Katey try to keep positive and Jerry is determined to make things better. He makes "friends" with one of the actors, Mr. Mons, and again that's in quotes because these people at this theatre are anything but his friends. Mons takes him to the local bar where the owner, Mr. Grinnell has some disease that has eaten away at his face, making it look like a skull. That is obviously a metaphor for the evil effects of drinking.
   And while Jerry has never been a drinker, the people with whom he now associates are, and he unwittingly gets drawn in, first, during another visit to the bar, when he tries to break up a fight, and ends up getting hurt. Worse, it turns out one of the fighters is Sebright, whom he didn't recognize at first. He goes back to work, but isn't well, and the people at the theatre keep giving him brandy. So he ends up drunk.
   And through all this, his poor wife suffers because no matter how determined Jerry is, those around him are bad news and pull him down. The worst, really most ridiculous thing, and I cannot imagine why Stoker made Muldoon and Margaret M'Anaspie, who is now Mrs. Muldoon, into such horrible people, but they came to visit them in London, and wanted a tour of the theatre. Margaret was fascinated with the trap that brought actors, like ghosts, etc. through a hole in the stage. She wanted to play a game, so she released the lever as Jerry was on it, and it shot up, nearly killing him. Rather than the Muldoons getting him a doctor and remaining until they were sure he was alive, they didn't want to get in trouble, so they left him lying in a pool of blood. OMG! These are not strangers! Muldoon is his cousin! Oh, dear. This kind of was the final straw for me to realize what REALLY BAD novel this was. And Jerry never does realize what really happened.
   In any case, Jerry's recovery in the hospital takes a long time, he loses his job, and things go even more downhill. And that's all I will say about this book! Stoker, by the way, was born in Ireland, moved to London and spent the better part of his life as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the West End's Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned. And though the characters were too unnatural to be convincing or to even care about, Stoker's depiction of London was quite real. I've read enough books, tons of books, about the shady side of London, to wonder why anyone would want to move there when they have what they want and need where they are.
   Below is an illustration of the bar, Jerry, Mons and Grinnell.

Jerry, Mons and Grinnell

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