Friday, February 22, 2013

Phroso by Sir Anthony Hope

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins (aka Anthony Hope) is best known for writing The Prisoner of Zenda.  Which is my all time favorite story.  I got the comic book, I got all kinds of movie versions, and I have several different illustrated editions of the book, and its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau.

Oddly enough, not much else of Hope's long body of work is remembered.  Thanks to Project Gutenberg, however, they are not lost.  Lately I've noticed a bunch of them cropping up on the daily tweets of new books that Gutenberg announces.

I hadn't read his other works, I admit. The one most known, The Dolly Dialogs, was not an adventure, so I paid little attention.  However I haunt the Gutenberg announcements Twitter feed, looking for illustrated work, and I came across an adventure book he wrote not long after Rupert of Hentzau.

The title is Phroso, and because Project Gutenberg doesn't have book descriptions I might have just bookmarked it and moved on... except that I'm there looking for illustrations and this book had some very alluring ones.  (As you see scattered about this post.)

So I downloaded it and I'm reading it, and I'm excited about it.

Like Zenda, Phroso is "a Romance" in both senses of the word. (At the time, "romance" usually referred to the adventure genre, and implied that it was, um, not true to life.  Early science fiction stories were often called "planetary romances," for instance.) Also like Zenda, it's about a hearty young Englishman of bold character, who takes a vacation in a fictional country and finds himself caught up in all sorts of skullduggery.  (Zenda actually defined this genre originally -- it's called a "Ruritanian Romance" named after the nation of Ruritania where Zenda takes place.)

This time the country is a Greek island -- a little kingdom under the administration of the Ottoman Empire -- which our heroic Englishman buys on a romantic whim.  The islanders are not real happy about being bought and sold, and are a pretty savage group.  At first, it seems like we're headed into a romantic version of "Deliverance" or maybe "Fort Apache."  But it's got secret passages and ancient mysteries, and all that Nancy Drew stuff too.

AND... that story turns out to be only the beginning.  By the end of the first act, the story takes some pretty significant turns....

This is one of the curses of ebooks, btw.  That first act feels like a whole book, so I thought I would be done reading this before I posted today.  But it's actually 96,000 words long, and I'm now a little over halfway done, and I'm completely hooked.

This one seems to be setting up for a happier ending than Prisoner of Zenda (but I am not counting on it; you know what those Victorians are like). 

You can download a well formatted copy of Phroso in multiple formats (with or without illustrations) on the main Phroso page, or you can read it online in your browser.

See you in the funny papers.


Unknown said...

This book sounds quite interesting... right up my alley.

I've actually never heard of Sir Anthony Hope, but I'm a big fan of Project Gutenberg, so I suspect I'll be looking this book up soon, along with The Prisoner of Zenda.

Thanks so much for the synopsis!

The Daring Novelist said...

Glad to turn someone else on to Hope.

The Gutenberg version of the Prisoner of Zenda is probably less well formatted, as it was one of the earliest books. (I think it was number 95 or something.) Although they do constantly upgrade.

I might do Zenda for next Friday's book -- and talk about all the different versions and track down some illustrations.

(I have the edition illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson -- but I think I don't have to subject them to scanners as I'm sure those illos are on the web.)