HIGGINSON, S.J. [SARAH JANE HATFIELD HIGGINSON]. - A Princess of Java. A tale of the far east.
Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1887. Octavo publisher's printed pattern cloth with paper labels (spine tips a bit chipped). ¶ First edition of this sometimes thrilling romance, or sometimes romantic thriller. I can't decide whether Mrs Higginson ever visited Java. This begins more like a travelogue - and she wrote a travel book for children about Java a few years later - than a novel and it's the surfeit of local colour and language that makes me wonder whether it all comes out of Raffles. There is a strong streak of feminism - our heroine princess, infected by association with western women, rejects docile subjection to her arranged marriage and other distasteful traditions - but the extraordinary culmination of this book is the celebration of not one but two interracial marriages. Admittedly the duskier half of each couple is the princess and a handsome young prince and the unions eventuate with some fairy tale inevitability. But the ordeals and dangers, the adventures of the heroines (there are three) are directed by their conflict with the cultural and racist demands of their parents. In the end it's Mrs Higginson's brave appreciation of and close attention to the beauty of the Javanese that lends me to believe she spent time there; more than her cavalcade of murderous amok, Guwa Upas - Valley of Poison - and ular lanang, a king cobra that blows gusts of poison.AUD 175.00 [Appr.: EURO 123.75 US$ 133.74 | £UK 108 | JP¥ 14863] Book number 9223
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