"Dionea", by Vernon Lee
(from Late Victorian Gothic Tales, edited by Roger Luckhurst)
I'm reading another collection of short stories-- this time gothic tales written by a variety of authors during the (late) Victorian period. I plan to give each its own entry, since I may drag out the reading for months... and don't want to have to keep track of my notes for so long... and would surely have forgotten what I wanted to say about the first by the time I'd read the last.
My Reaction (with SPOILERS):
I think this was the first time I'd heard of Vernon Lee. Apparently "Vernon Lee" was the pseudonym of Violet Paget. If this story is representative of the rest of her work, I haven't been missing out on much. Alright, that's a bit harsh. The story wasn't that bad, but it had a few things working against it from the start-- such as the fact that I am not-- never have been, never will be-- particularly enthralled by Greek/Roman mythology or the Mediterranean in general. Just not my can of Dr. Pepper. (I am also not one who relishes cups of tea.)
Other complaints? The story seemed to move slowly with precious little ever actually, you know, happening. I didn't care for the otherworldly Dionea, but neither could I work myself up to care much about any of the people whose lives she affected. There was no emotional connection whatsoever. (It didn't help the connection aspect that the entire story was told through one character's correspondence.)
The whole story seemed to be made up of people getting weird feelings about Dionea but never confronting her or doing anything about their suspicions. I'm still not sure what happened at the end. Did the sculptor decide to sacrifice himself (and then his wife) to Dionea/her impossible-to-capture beauty? Was he planning on killing his wife, or did she just wander onto the scene of some other strange rite and... inspire him to make the sacrifice? Or are we to conclude that Dionea herself did the killing? Ugh. You know what? I don't even care. It was just a big, fat BLAH.
That said, there were some beautiful word-paintings interspersed throughout the story... But pretty imagery couldn't save the story. It's not one I recommend to readers at large, unless you find Greek mythology much more appealing than I do.