Monday, October 6, 2008

Lost Laysen by Margaret Mitchell

For years it was believed that the world would only ever be able to read one work by Margaret Mitchell, her famous epic novel, Gone With the Wind. At some time prior to her death, Ms. Mitchell asked her husband and brother to promise to destroy all her personal letters and journals as well as all her unpublished writings, including the original draft of Gone With the Wind. Upon her death most were destroyed by her husband and the job was finished by her brother after her husband's death. It was a tragedy.

And then in 1996 the son of a family friend discovered a box full of letters, pictures and a novella written by Margaret Mitchell in the attic of his home. It had apparently been given by Margaret to her then beau, Henry Love Angel just before her 16th birthday. The novella was titled, Lost Laysen.

Lost Laysen was published the same year it was discovered, but I only just stumbled upon it. I read Gone With the Wind a few years ago and I loved it, so having found another book by Mitchell I was very excited and couldn't wait to pick it up. Although I found Lost Laysen to be an interesting and tragic story it is nothing to be compared with Mitchell's epic novel, but then Lost Laysen was written by Mitchell as a teenager, so I suppose it can be excused and enjoyed for what it is.

As a novella written by a 16-year old the story is rather impressive. Lost Laysen is an adventure/romance told in the first person by an Irish sailor, Bill Duncan. It tells of his lost love, Courtenay Ross, a beautiful little American lady, who he meets when she sails to the South Pacific island of Laysen to take be a missionary. It also tells of his rival, an American gentleman, Douglas Steele and of a Japanese/Spanish villain, Juan Mardo. Although the story is told by a rough-seafaring man it is only sprinkled lightly with one swear word and a minor one at that. One should also be warned that Mitchell's writing does lean towards somewhat of a prejudice against the Japanese/Chinese people living in the area of Laysen. Elements of Lost Laysen do bring to mind elements in Gone With the Wind, but they are very slight.

The copy of Lost Laysen that I borrowed from my library also contained a brief biography of Margaret Mitchell, or "Peggy" as she liked to be called. It also included several of the photographs found in the box and some of the letters written by Peggy to Henry Angel. I found all of this to be very interesting and it helped me to understand where Mitchell was as a person during the time she wrote Lost Laysen. My borrowed copy was 127 pages, but that included the introduction, editor's note, the aforementioned biographical and photographic information, and an index. The story itself is a mere four chapters and approximately 58 pages long.

For those interested in a short adventure story by Margaret Mitchell this is definitely a worthwhile read and could be finished in one sitting. I wouldn't suggest buying a copy of the book unless you are an avid fan of Mitchell. Local libraries should have a copy, but if they don't inexpensive copies are available online.


Carrie said...

I read this book a few years ago and walked away with the same opinion as yourself. You can't pick it up expecting another GWTW. It's more of a "curiosity" read.

Jena said...

I love Margaret Mitchell. I was supposed to give an hour's presentation on GWTW for my Southern Women Writers class, including a 30-minute biographical background and 30-minute discussion, but I think I waxed on for nearly two hours. (It was a three-hour class.) Volunteering for that presentation gave me the excuse to read all the Mitchell biographies that had been on my wishlist for years. And I was never interested in reading Lost Laysen when it was released, because--well, Mitchell didn't want anyone reading it. I've always kind of felt like I was respecting her wishes. But I have been curious, so thanks for posting the review.

Jena said...

did you know that thousands of people have claimed to be Mitchell reincarnated?

Marie DeVries said...

I never knew she had another book published... interesting.

I LOVE the picture you have at the top of your blog! All those books! I would love to live in a house with that kind of library...

Amy said...

How fascinating! Thanks for the review!