This novella purports to be a rewrite of a translation from a German original which allows Bierce to create an archaic romantic tale. Told in journal form in the first person by a young monk who has been sent into remote mountains to test his vocation before ordination as a priest. Here he meets a hangman's daughter. She is shunned by the community and by the church (she is not allowed to be baptised) because of her parentage. He champions her to the point of tragedy.
It is one of those books where the reader is one step ahead of the narrator. Thus we realise that the monk has carnal desires for the girl before he does.
The story also allows Bierce to subtly criticise religion. We are outraged with the monk that the church has cast out the girl even when she has no sin (and there is a scene where she is wrongly punished). There are also sly digs: at the end of the first chapter the monk says that the Lutherans believe that faith can move mountains but, looking at the mountains he is about to climb and from the perspective of a Roamn Catholic, "I greatly doubt it." Later, when climbing the mountains, he doubts the belief that the Lord has a purpose for everything since stones "are a blessing to neither man nor beast".
Although the structure of the book is transparent and we are always several jumps ahead of the narrative (except right at the end when Bierce plays with your expectations about the identity of the victim) this is a charming little book and well worth the very little time it takes to read.
June 2012; 93 pages
- Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57