The "odd-duck" that is "The Strange Case of Miss Annie Spragg"
This is such an unusual book! All I could find out about it before reading it, by doing some web-searches, was that it concerned the mysterious death of a woman displaying stigmata. This did not prepare me for what this book was really about: Religion, Morality (often the lack of it!), Romance and how different people's lives intersect.
Starting in Italy, in an age when Americans and British people of a certain class spent much of their time overseas, the twin events which spark off this story are the death of the aforementioned woman, Annie Spragg, and the uncovering of an ancient statue of Priapus, a Greek god of fertility, protector of horticulture and viticulture, in the garden of a mansion.
Bromfield was masterful in gradually bringing together the stories of the main characters, showing how the characters' paths crossed, often in surprising ways. I don't want to spoil the plot for other potential readers, so I won't go into much detail about this here.
I found it a curious tale and a pretty easy read, although the section on Miss Spragg's father (a false prophet who eventually proclaimed himself a god, enclosing himself in a temple surrounded by its own city, to be "attended" only by the young virgin women of the community) jumped around in time a little, which was a touch confusing.
This particular copy is a discarded libary book, and is not in the best condition, but it's still very readable. Therefore, rather than simply wild-releasing it (which might result in the book being thrown away, which would be a shame, since it's, sadly, long out of print), I want to find someone who will really appreciate it.
I would love to see this book republished!
The following passage, attributed to Michelet, appears several times in this book:
"Dans la damnation le feu est la moindre chose; le supplice propre au damné est le progrès infini dans le vice et dans le crime,
l'âme s'endurcissant, se dépravavant toujours, s'enfoncant nécessairement dans le mal de minute en progression géométrique pendant l'éternité."
Thanks to BCer stinalyn for a translation:
"In hell, the fire is the least thing; the punishment appropriate to the damned is the infinite progress in the vice and the crime, the soul hardening, becoming ever more depraved, burying itself of necessity in the pain of the moment in geometric progression for all eternity."
As Foucault suggested,I am journalling the following,taken from a PM of thanks to him.To start with,it only took 4 days to reach me - by surface mail!
'On removing the wrapping,I felt a spooky tingle,as it was the same edition (as my mother's copy),I recognized the spiky red writing on the black cover.Although this is an American edition, it's not that strange,as my Dad,who worked on the markets,was always bringing home imported American comics,pulp fiction and books, that he got off a market-trader friend who got them from the docks.Did you know that just after the war,paper publications like these were used as ballast for trans-atlantic shipping?
So from a very early age,about 6/7,I was reading this kind of literature,and explains my affection for my beloved Lovecraft.I think I fell in love with his 'made-up' words.'
I feel that Annie was meant to 'come home'to me.Maybe Mom sent her?
March '06.....Time to refresh my memory!
Poor Old Annie! Was she a Saint or not?
Ah,they just don't write books like this anymore!
Style is a little dated,but none the less immensely readable.Must have caused quite a few ripples when first published - the risky sex implications and the sly digs at the Church.
Strangely gripping,makes you want to know more about the characters.
I think it is time Annie went out into the wide world,and made some new friends.Hate to see her go - butI desperately need the space!