I thought this book was a novella originally based on its length, but it’s not. It is a short story printed in a hardback edition to capture the college required reading market or, nowadays, the copyright-has-expired-let’s-pour-it-in-a-hardback-and-see-who-buys-it print-on-demand market. But I got my copy for a buck, so I win.
The basic plot of the story is that a fun-loving cavalier is out on the town one night, a strange town where he’s violating a curfew, and he slips into an unlocked door to evade the night watch. But the unlocked door is really a one-way door designed to trap the paramour of the young maiden who lives in the house. The uncle of said maiden believes this fellow is the one who’s been passing her notes at church and opened the door (rimshot!) to scandal, so if the young man does not agree to marry the woman by dawn, he will be killed.
So, basically, it’s Sartre’s “The Wall” except with a comely woman from a good family as the fate worse than death.
It starts out with a very Lovecraftian feel as the town is described and you get the sense of the architecture and history looming over this stranger. But once he’s in the house, it becomes a meditation on honor and choices and what makes people compatible for life.
So it’s a nice little story, a quick read and a book to mark down on my annual list. Woo!
Books mentioned in this review: