x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fans of Wuthering Heights will find little new in Malvina

Translation of Polish novel offers a treat for fans of angst-filled romance novels.

Maria Wirtemberska (translated by Ursula Phillips)
Malvina Maria Wirtemberska (translated by Ursula Phillips)

First published in 1816 in the author’s native Poland, Malvina has survived largely unnoticed, an oversight this updated translation hopes to remedy. Considered as an example of Gothic storytelling, Malvina is the story of the eponymous heroine torn between heartache and true love.

As with many 19th-century romance novels, it fails to shatter many of the clichés associated with the genre. When the comely widow Malvina crosses paths with brooding stranger Ludomir, it’s love at first sight, with their courtship given florid descriptions over  several pages.

Just when it seems like nothing but sunshine and flowers await the happy couple, cruel fate intervenes and leaves Malvina to succumb to an occasional fainting fit under appropriately gloomy skies. This, in turn, paves the way for the dilemma of a love triangle with a flaky prince.

Fans of angst-filled romances might find something to appreciate in the familiar settings, provided they look past the purple prose and vacuous characters. If that fails, it might be time to dig up an old copy of Wuthering Heights.