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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Terror in the New World, 23 Mar. 2011
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Wieland; or The Transformation, and Memoirs of Carwin, The Biloquist (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
Published in 1798, "Wieland" is one of the earliest American novels. The narrator Clara Wieland lives an idyllic life in the Pennsylvania countryside. Intelligent and independent, she spends her days in the company of her beloved brother and his family who live nearby. One day a mysterious stranger, Carwin, enters their lives and soon inexplicable events threaten their happiness and sanity.

This is an original novel with an engaging narrator and I was completely gripped by Clara's story. The novel contains many strange and terrifying episodes in which the suspense is built up to an unbearable level. Having read the blurb of this book (which gives too much of the plot away), I thought I knew which way the story was heading, but the truth, when it emerges, is even more sinister and unsettling, raising issues which seem ahead of their time. Thus the novel works well as a whole, with the philosophical themes being complemented by the action.

As one would expect from a work of this period, the vocabulary and syntax does at times require concentration. The characters also have a tendency to use archaic diction (e.g. 'thou', 'thee', verbs ending '-est', etc.) at periods of high emotion, lending a melodramatic feel to some of the dialogue.

This OUP edition also includes an unfinished novel of about sixty pages told from the point of view of Carwin (the title unfortunately gives away a key plot device in "Wieland"). So far as it went this extract was interesting, exploring ideas in ethics and political philosophy and including a wonderful passage on the unfairness of marriage to women (Brockden was also the author of various feminist works). I would not say, however, that this was essential reading with regards to one's enjoyment or opinion of "Wieland".

Finally this edition has a good introduction which succinctly places the book in its historical and cultural context as well as drawing out some of the novel's subtler aspects.

[Disclaimer: I am an employee of Oxford University Press, this review reflects my personal opinions.]
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Wieland; or The Transformation, and Memoirs of Carwin, The Biloquist (Oxford World's Classics)
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