Friday, April 12, 2013

His Unknown Wife  -  1916
Louis Tracy
342 pages
genre  -  Adventure
my rating  -  4 out of 5 stars

I admit when I chose this book to read, my decision was based on the title. I was expecting a romance of some sort. It is an adventure story.

Twenty-eight year-old American Alec Maseden owns a ranch in the fictional Republic of San Juan. There is a military coup one night and Maseden is captured, tried, found guilty (of something) and sentenced to death by firing squad. All in one night. 45 minutes before his execution, Maseden is told a lady wants to marry him. He thinks, why not?

My favorite line in the book is:  "...women are not delicate.  I don't know why men invariably harbor that delusion...women are more steadfast, even hardier, than men. That is an essential, don't you see? The continuance of the race depends far more on the female than on the male."

The details in this book are amazing. I felt certain I was reading about the history of San Juan. It seems like the author must have been a sailor to know that much about ships. Where would the author gain his knowledge of wildlife along the Pacific shores of South America? This is a wonderful tale, and I liked how we were kept in suspense as to who he married.

About the author  -

Louis Tracy was born in Liverpool, England on March 18, 1863.  His parents had the resources to give him a private education, first at home, and then for three years in France.  Growing up in relative leisure he amused himself with “sport, volunteering, fishing, and riding,” but also joined the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment.  He showed an affinity for the army and by his 18th birthday had earned a captaincy, an unusual accomplishment at the time.

Around 1884 he fell into journalism.  “It was all owing to a letter I wrote in the zeal of my youth, a la Ruskin, to a local paper denouncing a railway that it was proposed to bring through a beautiful Yorkshire valley. This letter attracted the attention of a sharp-eyed local editor, who immediately offered me an appointment as a reporter.” That paper was The Northern Echo.  He later moved on to a paper in Cardiff, Wales, and then to Allahabad where he edited the Morning Post.   
Tracy returned to England in 1892 and helped start The Sun. While still at The Sun he advised Arthur Harmsworth (later Lord, then Viscount Northcliffe) of the potential sale of The Evening News and Post and in 1894 joined Harmsworth in acquiring the paper.  Tracy edited that paper for a short time before selling his shares. The proceeds may have been the source of the funds he spent in the harsh depression winter of 1894.  “What Mr. Tracy is most proud of is the feeding of three and one-half millions starving Londoners in the winter of 1894. For six weeks he ran twenty-three soup kitchens unaided, and expended $45,000."
After Tracy's death, his wife found this poem among his papers:

I am content if, when the struggle’s o’er,
And humbled, quelled, I reach the father shore
A voice shall say: ‘Brother, I bid thee rest,
Because, though not unstained, some worth is manifest,
Nor hast thou basely used the life I lent’ —      
                    I am content.


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