By: May Sinclair (1863-1946)
Ranny Ransome is an idealistic young man, devoted to exuberant gymnastic exercises and to fighting “flabbiness” in his own life, body and soul. He loves the girlish and athletic Winny Dymond, and particularly loves participating with her in the Combined Maze, a choreographed, intricate, exhilarating group gymnastic ritual in which the young men and women of the Polytechnic Gymnasium demonstrate their skills. Unfortunately, Ranny falls under the spell of the seductive Violet, a sexual free spirit who wants nothing more than to live an untrammelled life on her own terms. When, to her astonishment and horror, Violet becomes pregnant, Ranny dutifully marries her against her will, entangling himself and her in a deadly new Combined Maze of social conventions intended to suppress and subdue the elemental passions that give color to Life. May Sinclair draws her readers in with a quiet, unobtrusive, Victorian prose that seems completely in tune with the conventional proprieties of her society, but goes on in the same seditious, unassuming tone to tell stories of sensuality, adultery, seduction, divorce, and betrayal, quietly protesting the smothering conventions of a society that feared passion in all its forms. Ranny’s mesmerizing struggle to maintain his fundamental decency while remaining true to his real love hangs in the balance to the last page.