|About the Book|
In the Two Baronesses, Hans Christian Andersen, offers a new version of Sir Walter Scotts Heart of the Midlothian situated in nineteenth century Denmark. It is a technique that often works. Many people believe that James Joyce created a masterpiece by recasting Homers Odyssey in early twentieth century Dublin. Similarly Jean Anouilhs decision to take Sophocles Antigone put her into France under the German occupation of WWII has met with broad praise. Andersens worthy effort has simply failed to praise the reading public as have works by Joyce and Anouilh. A major part of the problem is that the Heart of Midlothian is no longer widely read whereas Homers Odyssey and Sophocles Antigone continue to hold a large audience.I am sympathetic to Andersen for his noble attempt which simply does work with a reader of the twenty-first century. It may once have worked as Sir Walter Scott was the only British author widely read outside of the English-speaking world for most of the nineteenth century. Sir Walter Scotts novels had a huge impact on poetry, novels, painting and above-all opera for almost a century. German Romanticism had relatively little influence outside of Germany but Scotts Romanticism absolutely dominated England, France and Italy in its day.Andersens idea then to use Scotts Heart of the Midlothian to examine the Danish society of his day was possibly not bad. However, gathering from the reviews that I have read on Goodreads and elsewhere no one seems to have appreciated it. Despite the fact that Andersen repeatedly states in the novel that he is using the Heart of the Midlothian as his template, the other reviewers have suggested that he has simply inserted fairy-tale elements into the Two Baronesses. I think rather that the novel simply contains the type of improbable events and weird characters such as can be found in novels by Walter Scott or Victor Hugo. I may be wrong. Most of the other reviewers feel that the author of the Ugly Duckling does nothing more than show how much out of his depth he is with adult fiction. Without actually recommending this failed novel, I do not think that it missed by much in what it was trying to do.