She: A History of Adventure (Pocket Penguin Classics)

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9780141031309: She: A History of Adventure (Pocket Penguin Classics)

On his twenty-fifth birthday, Leo Vincey opens the silver casket that his father has left to him. It contains a letter recounting the legend of a white sorceress who rules an African tribe and of his father's quest to find this remote race. To find out for himself if the story is true, Leo and his companions set sail for Zanzibar. There, he is brought face to face with Ayesha, She-who-must-be-obeyed: dictator, femme fatale, tyrant and beauty. She has been waiting for centuries for the true descendant of Kallikrates, her murdered lover, to arrive, and arrive he does - in an unexpected form. Blending breathtaking adventure with a brooding sense of mystery and menace, "She" is a story of romance, exploration discovery and heroism that has lost none of its power to enthrall.

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Review:

Ayesha is She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, a 2,000-year-old queen who rules a fabled lost city deep in a maze of African caverns. She has the occult wisdom of Isis, the eternal youth and beauty of Aphrodite, and the violent appetite of a lamia. Like A. Conan Doyle's Lost World, She is one of those magnificent Victorian yarns about an expedition to a far-off locale shadowed by magic, mystery, and death.

Tim Stout writes, in Horror: 100 Best Books, "As the plot takes hold one has the fancy that [Ayesha] had always existed, in some dark dimension of the imagination, and that [H. Rider] Haggard was the fortunate author to whom she chose to reveal herself." Haggard did, in fact, write this book in a six-week burst of feverish inspiration: "It came faster than my poor aching hand could set it down," he later said.

This edition of the 1887 classic features an introductory essay by literary critic Regina Barreca, who likens Ayesha to Flaubert's Madame Bovary or Tolstoy's Anna Karenina--"literally fantastic female figures who must be stopped before they love again."

From the Back Cover:

First published in 1886-87, H. Rider Haggard’s imperial romance follows its English heroes from the quiet rooms of Cambridge to the uncharted interior of Africa in search of a legendary lost city with an ageless white queen. The two men find their way to the ancient city of Kôr, where the beautiful and mysterious Ayesha, “She-who-must-be-obeyed,” rules. Despite her cruelty, both men become fascinated by Ayesha, who leads them on a harrowing journey to bathe in the underground “River of Life.” A thrilling "history of adventure," She also reveals the complexity of Victorian attitudes towards race, gender, exploration, and empire. This Broadview edition presents the novel in its original illustrated Graphic magazine version, never before republished, and includes a critical introduction and supporting materials that demonstrate the novel's relationship to late-Victorian issues such as imperialism, archaeology, race, evolution, and the rise of the "New Woman."

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Haggard, H. Rider
Published by Penguin Books (2007)
ISBN 10: 0141031301 ISBN 13: 9780141031309
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