This short novel by Louisa May Alcott is a world away from “Little Women” and the March girls, telling a very different kind of story set in a very different world.
There may be a link though. Jo made money by writing stories for magazines and newspapers. Not the type of writing she admired, but writing calculated to sell. Maybe “Behind a Mask” is the type of story she wrote….
Miss Jean Muir arrives to take up the position of governess with the Coventry family. She presents herself as a sweet and demure young woman who has been compromised by the son of the house in her previous position.
Most of the family are charmed, but two have doubts. And the doubters are right – Miss Muir is not what she claims to be. She is a cynic, seeking money and security. She considers love to be of no consequence and has a past very different to the one she describes.
Miss Muir is clever though, and her greater experience of life tells. The lady of the house and her young charge think she is wonderful, the men of the family all fall in love with her, the elder son who had doubts quite won over, and the female cousin who distrusts her is perceived as jealous.
Will Miss Muir win the ultimate prize of a brilliant marriage that will secure her future?
Or will she be disgraced by the revelation of what lies behind the mask she presents to the world?
The tale twists and turns. It is packed full of last-minute escapes and discoveries forestalled, and the outcome remains in doubt until the very last page.
I loved “Behind a Mask”. It isn’t great literature, but it is very well constructed and written and a genuine page-turner.