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Wormwood: A Drama of Paris [Paperback]

Marie Corelli , Kirsten MacLeod
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 8 2004 1551114194 978-1551114194
Though disparaged by literary critics of her day, Marie Corelli was one of the most popular novelists of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Wormwood (1890) is a lurid tale of unrequited love, betrayal, vengeance, murder, suicide, and addiction. The novel recounts the degeneration of Gaston Beauvais, a promising young Parisian man who, betrayed by his fiancée and his best friend, falls prey to the seductive powers of absinthe. The impact of Gaston's debauchery and addiction on himself, his family, and his friends is graphically recounted in this important contribution to the literature of fin de siècle decadence. This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a generous selection of contextualizing documents, including excerpts from Corelli's writings on art and literature, nineteenth-century degeneration theories, and clinical and artistic views on absinthe.

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Marie Corelli's novels are breathtakingly inventive, often defiant interjections in the late-Victorian literary scene, one-of-a-kind mixtures of romance, decadence, aestheticism, naturalism, and the New Woman fiction. This Broadview edition of Wormwood, Corelli's attack on Paris absintheurs, provides an able introduction to the author's life, helpful glosses on Corelli's creative use of many French words and phrases, and extensive background on bohemian Paris, British francophobia, and contemporary controversies surrounding naturalism and degeneration theory. The appendices contextualize the novel's fascination with addiction and art, passion and pathology. This edition is the most thorough and responsible treatment of Corelli's work to date. (Annette R. Federico)

This edition makes Wormwood, arguably Marie Corelli's most controversial novel, available once again. Kirsten MacLeod's astutely selected appendicesincluding materials about degeneration theory and naturalism, translations of cited French poems and songs, contemporary reviews, and epistolary extracts conveying Corelli's aesthetic philosophyserve well to culturally contextualize this work, making this edition the obvious choice. (Carol Margaret Davison)

"Yahoo! I'm so glad you're publishing Corelli! The most unique collection of rare texts on the planet! Thanks!" (Curt Herr)

From the Back Cover

Though disparaged by literary critics of her day, Marie Corelli was one of the most popular novelists of the late Victorian and Edwardian periods. Wormwood (1890) is a lurid tale of unrequited love, betrayal, vengeance, murder, suicide, and addiction. The novel recounts the degeneration of Gaston Beauvais, a promising young Parisian man who, betrayed by his fiancée and his best friend, falls prey to the seductive powers of absinthe. The impact of Gaston's debauchery and addiction on himself, his family, and his friends is graphically recounted in this important contribution to the literature of fin de siècle decadence. This Broadview edition includes a critical introduction and a generous selection of contextualizing documents, including excerpts from Corelli's writings on art and literature, nineteenth-century degeneration theories, and clinical and artistic views on absinthe.

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4.0 out of 5 stars The Green Fairy July 14 2009
By Dave_42 TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In 1890 Marie Corelli published her fifth novel, "Wormwood: A Drama of Paris". After moving considerably closer to Fantasy in "Ardath", Marie returns to her gothic/occult romance style with this book. The subject of the book is the degredation of society through the vice of drinking, and specifically drinking Absinthe (a.k.a. grande wormwood or la fée verte (the Green Fairy), a spirit which was thought to be addictive and a psychoactive drug and to cause madness over time. As a result, it was attacked by conservatives and prohibitionists and was eventually banned for a time in many countries. The person addicted, or the `absentheur' in this story is Gaston Beauvais, the narrator of the story.

I have read that this novel is broken into three parts, but the copy of it which I read did not do so. The narrative of the story is told by Gaston from a point after he has destroyed his life and the lives of those around him, looking back on the road which brought him to this point. Gaston starts the novel as a young man who has everything going for him. He is successful in business, working for his father for a bank. His father's close friend is the Comte de Charmilles, and Gaston courts the Comte's daughter Pauline. Gaston is completely taken in by Pauline's beauty, and barely notices Pauline's closest friend and relation Héloïse, who is her cousin. Gaston takes his time in courting Pauline, even after he is resolved to marry her. It is at the same time as he intends to propose that Silvion Guidél, the nephew of the Curé comes to live with the Curé's house. In a rather forced piece of foreshadowing, Gaston takes a dislike to Silvion at the instant he first hears the name.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Green Fairy July 14 2009
By Dave_42 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In 1890 Marie Corelli published her fifth novel, "Wormwood: A Drama of Paris". After moving considerably closer to Fantasy in "Ardath", Marie returns to her gothic/occult romance style with this book. The subject of the book is the degredation of society through the vice of drinking, and specifically drinking Absinthe (a.k.a. grande wormwood or la fée verte (the Green Fairy), a spirit which was thought to be addictive and a psychoactive drug and to cause madness over time. As a result, it was attacked by conservatives and prohibitionists and was eventually banned for a time in many countries. The person addicted, or the `absentheur' in this story is Gaston Beauvais, the narrator of the story.

I have read that this novel is broken into three parts, but the copy of it which I read did not do so. The narrative of the story is told by Gaston from a point after he has destroyed his life and the lives of those around him, looking back on the road which brought him to this point. Gaston starts the novel as a young man who has everything going for him. He is successful in business, working for his father for a bank. His father's close friend is the Comte de Charmilles, and Gaston courts the Comte's daughter Pauline. Gaston is completely taken in by Pauline's beauty, and barely notices Pauline's closest friend and relation Héloïse, who is her cousin. Gaston takes his time in courting Pauline, even after he is resolved to marry her. It is at the same time as he intends to propose that Silvion Guidél, the nephew of the Curé comes to live with the Curé's house. In a rather forced piece of foreshadowing, Gaston takes a dislike to Silvion at the instant he first hears the name. Gaston proposes and his proposal is accepted, and as time passes and the wedding grows closer, there are more and more signs that there is an issue arising between Pauline and Silvion, but in typical Corelli fashion Gaston fails to notice anything wrong despite a narrative which could only be told by someone who was incredibly observant. At last, Pauline confesses to Gaston and pleads that he will do nothing to Silvion for honor's sake. Gaston struggles with what to do and after finally deciding to step aside he is convinced by an artist friend, André Gessonex to try absinthe, an event which completely changes Gaston's mind and he decides that he must have revenge and destroy the lives of Silvion and Pauline. One can easily see how this would be the end of the first section of the book.

The second section would likely be the period in which Gaston keeps his new found obsession secret while he gets his revenge. He intends to immediately challenge Silvion, but finds that Silvion has run away back to his parents home away from Paris and that he has also decided to immediately become a priest. He keeps this information from Pauline and tells her that they should keep the situation secret for now and proceed as if they still intend to be married. Pauline trusts him but as the time passes and the wedding gets closer she becomes more and more distressed. Because of the dishonor it would bring on her, she has even kept the secret from Héloïse, though Héloïse is certain that something has gone wrong. The night before the wedding, Pauline confronts Gaston and tells him that though it appears they will get married, she will never love him, and Gaston reminds her that they are not married "yet". On the day of the wedding, in front of all the guests, Gaston declares that he will not marry Pauline, and reveals the reason in front of all. His father is furious for the way Gaston has purposely embarrassed his friend and been as cruel as possible and tells Gaston to leave Paris for a while. This would likely be the end of the second section.

The third section deals with Gaston destroying his life and all those who surround him. Everyone he knew is touched in a negative way by him. He commits horrendous crimes and shows little or no remorse, though at other times he seems aware of the monster he has become. I thought the writing in this section was well done, because it shifts from the narration glorifying the deeds to being ashamed of them over and over, as one would expect from someone suffering from the addition to this drug of madness.

Overall I enjoyed this book, though not quite as much as "Ardath". It has some issues with the writing in that Corelli seems to want to put an exclamation point at the end of every piece of dialog and even in much of the narration. I don't recall her doing this to such an extent in her previous books, but perhaps I should go back and take another look. I also miss the well done fantasy section of "Ardath" as this book is much more straight forward story, though I suppose one does get a feel for the fantastic with some of the hallucinations which haunt Gaston in the final section. Still, despite those problems this is easily my second favorite of Corelli's novels up to this point.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fin-de-Siecle' meets "Reefer Madness"!! Sept. 13 2006
By Samuel Wells - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There should really be two reviews here; one for Corelli's work and another for the work of Kristen Macleod, the editor and academic who wrote the introductory material. Since KMC's material comes first in the text, I will deal with it in that order.

The introductory essay is an obvious attempt to glorify Corelli's work and place the pulp novelist in the upper reaches of the cannon along with writers like Oscar Wilde, who is attacked directly in the text (which is pretty funny, really -- if there was any writer who was marginalized for the issues writers like Macleod supports, it was Wilde. Her attack misses the mark by miles) and whose importance the writer attempts to minimize. Sigh. This is literary criticism of what Harold Bloom so rightly labelled the "School of Resentment". Corelli was a fine writer, entertaining and enjoyable, but to place her histrionic, paranoid pulp on the same level with Joyce and Faulkner is just plain goofy. Give it up.

The novel itself a BLAST. Corelli's over-the-top prose style introduces a young French banker and wannabe literati named Gaston (what else would he be named?) who is gradually seduced away from respectability and into the louched life by painter Andre Gessonex. Gaston soon finds himself a murderous addict in thrall to the wiles of the irresistable Green Fairy and is unable to save himself or the women he loves. He stalks the streets of Belle Epoque Paris like a stoned Jack the Ripper, ready for death and dissolution.

The translation is great: it includes Corelli's footnotes (did you know that the French call waiters "Garcon"? Apparently Corelli felt it important enough to note, along with a host of other dubious entries.) and keeps the amazingly brisk, derisive and hysterical tone high throughout.

I recommend this novel highly for absinthe lovers, just skip the introduction if you don't have a strong stomach for foolishness.
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent edition of an overlooked pulp classic! July 30 2007
By Ibsen Freak - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Corelli is a wonderful writer and it is about time her books receive the academic notice they deserve. There is an unfortunate academic snobbery that smells of if-it-isn't-Joyce-it's-not-literature in many circles. Get Over Yourselves! This book, and the Victorian Sensation Fiction movement that produced it, is wonderful! Take off the seat-belt and return to reading for the pure joy of it. Wormwood is a blast to read- hyperbolic, overblown, yes! The monkey-boy is worth the price of the book alone, but then add on the creepy trips to the Paris mortuary, the weird violinist, and crazed, absinthe induced tripping, and the book is a total delight! (seriously, it should come with a sound track as you read- You can almost hear the BUM-BUUUMMMMMMMMMMMM of an orchestra at key points, Oh Pauline!!!! Don't JUMP!) The intro is well written and informative- It's great to see Corelli get noticed again. She was a incredibly strong woman with a powerful imagination. Bring it on! (Grad students... are you listening? There is a TON of unchartered territory in Corelli- Great thesis topics abound in her books!) this edition rocks!
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wormwood Feb. 7 2010
By Michael Gilcrease - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
This was a very good book, the punctuation took a little getting used to, but the story was very good.
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