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The Lady Who Came to Stay (Spencer) & The Elixir of Life (Ransome)

by R.E. Spencer and Arthur Ransome

Published by Hippocampus Press: NY, 978-0-9814888-9-9.

Trade Paperback 2009

Reviewed by Mark Owings
Review posted 6/20/09

This is another in the series of tries Hippocampus has made in resurrecting the Ace Doubles, with older fantastic titles, this time from 1933 and 1915. The Spencer emphasizes characterization and makes rather a good thing of it. The five women (males are minor or absent here) in the house are recognizable living presences, even after death. This would make a wonderful low-budget movie, even to a thundering conclusion suitable for CGI work. The introduction says that it was adapted to the Broadway stage in 1941, so there is even a script to start from. The story is about attempts to control the younger generation (really two generations by the end) of a dying family. The second section has a love story which some may want to skim over, though I liked it myself.

The Arthur Ransome portion is a historical fantasy concerned with a two-hundred-year-old man who is trying to keep going and (periodically) stay young. It is narrated by another man at forty remembering the events of twenty years earlier in 1915. It is perhaps accurate that the narrator at forty in 1735 thinks of himself as old. The early sixteenth-century portions (told in a diary) are well handled, as are the early eighteenth-century portions, with one quibble most will miss. The S.T. Joshi introduction talks about the longevity and rejuvenation theme but omits mention of Alexandre Dumas using it scattered through some connected volumes. Maybe he's never read them. The novel is fairly fast-moving, particularly at the end.

Both stories are well worth reading if you are looking for something out of the way, and probably better than most of what we are getting these days-- at least the first novels, which is what I mostly see.

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