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The Gorgon's Head by Florence Hurd
#1
Sad 
[Contains some spoilers.]

The Gorgon's Head by Florence Hurd

Atypical pseudo-gothic about a young woman who takes a secretarial position in the San Francisco household of a professor of classics writing a book on Greek mythology. The other characters who inhabit the house (all rather grotesque) begin to take on traits analogous to various Greek mythological personae: there are the graeae, or "gray ones," those witch-like primordial sisters gifted with prophecy; the sea-god Poseidon; and of course Medusa, the gorgon herself.

Anybody who has read the most basic junior-library Greek mythology primer will find these analogues rather obvious and tiresome, especially the "Poseidon" character, whose name is "Don Seaborne." The titular gorgon is the mistress of the household, the professor's sister Regina, who always wears a hat and veil that completely conceal her head and face. Yet each time the protagonist (Charissa) makes the belated connection between a character and his or her mythological counterpart, the reader is expected to fall over in surprise at the revelation. Are these real Greek deities who have survived into modernity, living incognito in a San Francisco Victorian? Or is this a madhouse full of schizophrenics? Either way we're given no reason for the heroine to stay, other than her presence being the sole prop that holds up the entire story.

Charissa, the too-clueless-to-live heroine, suspects that her purpose in the household isn't what it had been advertised to be, and that she's being fattened for the proverbial witch's pot. She comes down with chronic headaches, feels chronically ill, tired and depressed, yet she thoughtlessly swallows the "tonic" she is served every night and even remains in the house after "Captain Seaborne" attempts to rape her. Of course, when it's too late to escape and she's about to meet her maker, her jilted ex-boyfriend arrives on the scene out of the past because he thought something was funny about the way she hadn't answered his letters (even though she had told him she never wanted to see him again) and saves her.

Florence Hurd has written better books. This one reads like an experiment by a writer bored with the usual Gothic formula and trying something new to see if it works. It doesn't.

Plot-holes wide as the Aegean, contrived and improbable situations, a nerveless heroine who made me root for the villain, and a predictable deus-ex-machina ending all added up to one big pile of . . . well, never mind. And I don't mean a pile like the Parthenon's a pile.

Oh well. I enjoyed Florence's novel The Secret of Canfield House, and I'm giving her another chance with Storm House, which is already much better. I guess every author is entitled to an off-day or two.
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#2
(01-23-2011, 07:54 AM)Penfeather Wrote: Are these real Greek deities who have survived into modernity, living incognito in a San Francisco Victorian? Or is this a madhouse full of schizophrenics?

This sentence makes me want to read the book now! Big Grin
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#3
(01-23-2011, 08:23 PM)sara Wrote:
(01-23-2011, 07:54 AM)Penfeather Wrote: Are these real Greek deities who have survived into modernity, living incognito in a San Francisco Victorian? Or is this a madhouse full of schizophrenics?

This sentence makes me want to read the book now! Big Grin

Oh! Well forget everything I said, and may you enjoy the book. Smile

Perhaps I was being over-critical. Despite my opinion of this particular book, I'm still a Florence Hurd fan and will continue to seek out her work.
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