Writing ‘at white heat’, and in the flush of success after the publication of King Solomon’s Mines, Haggard drew again on his knowledge of Africa and of ancient legends, but also on something deeper and more disturbing. To the Englishmen who journey through shipwreck, fever, and cannibals to the hidden realm, She is the goal of the quest bequeathed to them two thousand years before; to Haggard’s readers, She is the embodiment of one of the most potent and ambivalent figures of Western mythology, a female who is both monstrous and desirable – and, without question, deadlier that the male!
I say: This book has got me slightly torn because, on the one hand I enjoyed Haggard’s writing, but on the other hand, I didn’t particularly like the story and all the heavy Christian symbolism and references.
And there were many to be had.
The entire text is pretty much riddled with allusions to Christianity in one way or another. Some of them were glaringly blatant, whereas others were pointed out to me by the notes. I don’t mind religion in my fiction, but this whole thing with Leo, Holly and Job going to Africa on a ‘mission’ and Haggard repeatedly quoting or referencing the bible was a tad too much.
A huge tad.
Another thing that I really don’t like with old-timey literature is this whole ‘white man’s burden’ approach to Africa and Africans portraying them as savages. Yes, there are tribes that could be called savage, but the whole symbolism of the way they behaved and how they were ruled by this white woman is just more than I bear to discuss right now.
Although I would love to entirely pick this novel apart.
The story itself was rather silly, for lack of a better word. There were a few action scenes that were rather enjoyable, but since I don’t like adventure stories, unless they are in some way humorous, this was never really for me to like.
100 Classics Challenge be damned.
So yeah, the story itself would have gotten a 2/5, but since I would have given the text a 4/5 from a literary viewpoint, we shall settle for a 3/5. I would be interested in picking up another of Haggard’s novels to further examine his writing, and maybe someday I’ll find someone who’ll enjoy dissecting this novel with me.
*This is my eighth entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my 100 Classics Challenge that’s been going on for a tad too long).