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The Top of the World: 12/12/06

The Top of the World

It's a topsy-turvy world when one can be at the top of the world in South Africa and that's the central theme of Ethel M. Dell's romance The Top of the World. The book appears to be a simple romance (girl pines over boy and finally gets boy) and goes as far as to have a giant heart on its cover. It is anything but a simple romance (at least of the sort that were popular at the turn of the last century). It could be described as a proto-bodice ripper. The bodice ripper is mostly an invention of the 1970s but this romance has all the trappings of one (minus the pink and suggestively illustrated cover).

The novel dances a fine line along a number of more conventional plot lines but whenever the heroine (Sylvia) should do the obvious thing, she does something completely unexpected. Does she stay at home to pine over her lost love? No! She goes after him. Does she go home when she can't find her lost love? No. She takes a marriage of convenience. Does she honor and obey her new husband? Decidedly no!

Curious to see how much an aberrationThe Top of the World is for this era of book (it was published in 1920) I did a search on the author, Ethel M. Dell. According to Wikipedia she had a hard time getting published because her first book (like all the others, I suspect) was so unconventional (especially for a female author). She did finally find a publisher and once it sold, she made quite a career from writing. She was eventually able to support herself and her husband on the money she made from writing (some £30,000 a year).

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