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“H. Rider Haggard is most known for King Solomon's Mines, but She is a close second. Haggard's own lost love (one Mary Elizabeth Jackson, aka "Lilly") seems to play a huge part in his writing of the powerful, amazingly beautiful She-who-must-be-obeyed, also known as She, also known as Ayesha. ...”see full review » see other reviews »
“By all rights I probably should reread this before reviewing--I last read this in my teens. I think I'm a little afraid I might find She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed diminished in my esteem, and I'd hate that. I'd rather remember this not only as a rollicking good adventure to read, but above all Ayesha, the "She" of the title, as one of the kick ass heroines of Victorian fiction. Along with King Solomon's Mines, She is the most famous of H. Rider Haggard's novels, and I like this one more. Indeed, this spawned three sequels. There's even one where the hero of King's Solomon's Mines, Alan Quartermain, meets Ayesha--She and Allan. My favorite of the Ayesha books actually is the prequel Wisdom's Daughter, where Ayesha tells her own story--historical fantasy about Ancient Egypt. This particular is the original, published as a serial from 1896 to 1897. It's set 2,000 years after Ayesha was born in the present day of publication. For Ayesha is immortal--and incredibly powerful. And now she's confronted with an Englishman who bears a uncanny resemblance to her old love. And yes, some of the prose, it is purple. I'm not going to claim this is the same order of classic as the best by Charles Dickens, the Brontes, George Eliot or Thomas Hardy. But like Arthur Conan Doyle or Robert Louis Stevenson or Rudyard Kipling, Haggard really could spin a good yarn.”Lisa Maria C wrote this review Monday, September 23, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Actually reading the free public domain ebook :)
This part of my study of classic 19th Century adventures referencing an "underground city/civilisation." Turns out that the "cave city" is the catacombs in the sides of the volcano in which Ayesha lives. The 'rest places' are stone bench alcoves where bodies were once laid to rest & the great stone lunch table was designed for embalmers. The ancient lost people's big stone city (Kor) is actually open to the air and sun. It's inside a hidden valley within the ancient caldera.
Ayesha is She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed, a powerful dark-haired, pale-skinned un-aging beauty who is at least 2200 yrs old, maybe much older.
(a pronunciation tip says it would be said as "Assha" - and my mind helpfully adds a "t" to the end of it :)
This is one of those florid, action-y adventures of the late 19th century in which brave white explorers 'discover' ancient secrets & civilizations still quite well known to the locals :P Its well-written, with excellent pacing. Modern readers might find its occasional philosophizing and melodramatic sensibilities a bit much, but that was expected back in the time it was written.
What starts off this trip begins over 20 years before when a dying college friend entrusts his blond, blue-eyed son to a faithful, somewhat ugly friend - Professor Holly - along with some weird family artifacts and a somewhat sad family tale of a Greek priest and a Egyptian princess/magician encountering another powerful magician priestess (Ayesha) when they suddenly had to flee their home. The beautiful sorceress demands the handsome Greek priest Kallikrates become her husband instead and she will make him immortal & powerful for it. He's tempted, but picks his lovely - and pregnant - wife Amenartes at the last minute and is slain by Assha_, that is , Ayesha. So the cantankerous witch despotically rules over the locals for over 2000 years waiting for his reincarnation to return. Amenartes escapes to raise her child and leaves both the story, and instructions to the old city on a large potsherd. The widow's hope is that her son, or some descendent will find Ayesha and avenge her husband.
Leo, the boy Holly raised, looks just like his forebear(s). Like several of his predecessors, Leo is fascinated by the old story and directions to this ancient place included in the packet. Each of them got closer to the goal, but it is Leo & Holly who make it all the way back to this now isolated ruined country. Also like his forebear, he picks up a lovely wife among the locals on the way in. Sadly Ustane (Leo's wife), will die by Ayesha's magic, and lovelorn Leo will follow the selfish 'entrancing beauty' Ayesha all the way through the amazingly well preserved secret city of the ancient Kor that lies hidden inside the open caldera of an extinct volcano so he can become immortal too and marry her. Ayesha lives in the walls of this voclano, in cave dwellings taken from the Kor's old catacombs, and uses their well-preserved regal mummies as large candles for her wild fetes.
Most of the 'advanced' Kor died of plague in ancient times - and the survivors emigrated 'northward' (more Aryan myth stuff?), so Ayesha's had the place to herself (and her deaf mute blonde-haired, blue-eyed flunkies) for millennium. She claims sometimes to have known later inhabitants who could taught her the language and their secrets and at other times to have arrived long after their civilization fell. No good reason why she isn't using the old city is given. Possibly she feared disease or offended ghosts had lingered. She's not the rightful ruler or a descendent, but an ambitious beauty somebody imported from ancient Syria who 'learned the great secrets' including the secret of the immortal flame - by flirting with a hermit who was protecting but not using it. She's now somewhat telepathic and psychokinetic, as well as just plain psycho, but supposedly so beautiful - charming- - regal -smart -learned etc that this makes up for everything she does (including the murder of Ustane.) Irritatingly, both men fall for her act, and declare themselves to still be in love when the immortality process goes awry and turns her into a tiny ugly monkey-like mummy. Both guys then leave, without attempting to become immortal, convert their journals into a manuscript and mail it to a friendly acquaintance so it can be published.
(The last bit is a common literary device of the time. The author supposedly met the 'real adventurers' and has been entrusted to share it with the public, allegedly to increase public knowledge or offer a warning. This is also why they- or at least their journal - has to escape the remote area where the events took place.)
The story makes some pretensions towards being a moral tale, even mentions having Prof Holly make a desultory stab at converting Ayesha to Christianity, but gives her numerous immoral and amoral speeches at length. The fact that her paganism/materialism gets pitched at length, repeatedly, while Holly declares her too clever (or dangerous) to be answered, suggests which way Haggard was really leaning. I started the 2nd book and its already mentioned Holly dying after invoking by an apparition at a Stonehenge-like monument with an incantation and Egyptian artifact. The second story then recounts Leo & Holly chasing a vision of Ayesha to the Thibet and living among the Buddhists, learning their path and so on. All of it is quite the cliche these days, but who knows, this may have been where these links were initially popularized?
You can read more at Wikipedia, since this is considered a classic of Imperialist late Victorian literature
“You have to like the high diction and dependent clauses of this style to enjoy 'She'. It may be a classic but it isn't great literature, yet I confess to having read and re-read it time and again as a teen for the atmosphere and fantastical elements that abound. Delicious, like a dessert with far too much whipped cream, a sinful indulgence in a romantic Africa that never was. Racially deplorable, but not unexpectedly so, given its time. As a kid I ignored that aspect, believing it unimportant to the story.”Robin Winter wrote this review Thursday, May 2, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“"She" is one of those curious novels where you just *know* that the author wasn't aware of every symbolic detail and hidden meaning contained within the text. It reads like a manifestation of the late Victorian collective unconscious, embodying all of the Empire's cultural anxieties and societal discourses in the figure of Ayesha. As such, it is interesting to note that she is an ambivalent, almost positive figure rather than a vilified "Other".”Jassu1979 wrote this review Friday, March 29, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“The full title of this book is “She. A History of Adventure” and this is a classical adventure book.
A first-person narration makes it more engaging and reveals more about the emotions of two main characters – a professor Horace Holly and his adopted son Leo Vincey. Leo’s biological father left him a chest to be opened when Leo turns 25. And the content of this chest is the reason to start a great journey to Africa and to meet mysterious She – a white queen of a black primitive tribe.
I’ve really enjoyed this book – a reminder of classical adventure books I read in my youth.”
“The story is interesting as a way of looking the development of fantasy, and it has some nice imagery in places but the lack of respect for anyone with less than white skin set my teeth on edge. The story treats all non-English as barbarians and expendable. English Christianity is shown as superior. It's interesting that the story shows a matriarchy and a powerful woman but in the end these are shown as evil and all returns to the status quo.”Lizzie N wrote this review Thursday, March 14, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I'm a little confused by the description of this book. I know I read it while reading the Allan Quatermain series and thought this one was part of that series. According to the book details, it is from another series...perhaps one I haven't discovered from this prolific author, Sir Henry Rider Haggard... Also, this is where the popular phrase, "She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed" comes from!!! Love that. Use to have a coffee cup with that exact quote.”Michigan Parents wrote this review Thursday, January 31, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I remember reading the brilliant Allan Quartermain novel when I was 14 and at school - totally gripping - How Umslopogaas held the Stair and such like. Now I have returned and read 'She'. If you want to know from where Tolkien borrowed a number of great ideas then read this book. If you want to read a story by a born-story teller, then read this - totally gripping adventure. And if you want an antidote to all the modernistic, post-modernistic, depressing drivel - including the alleged 'greatest novel of the Twentieth Century', Ulysses - then read this: in one hundred years's time ten thousands will still be reading this literature and there'll be another film version and so on; and a dozen professors world wide will be still waffling on about Ulysses and they will be its only readers. Yea, read Rider Haggard - he can really write!”James Sale wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Good, not great.”Cassandra S wrote this review Saturday, August 18, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No