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A Spirit in Prison   By: (1864-1950)

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A Spirit in Prison by Robert Smythe Hichens is a captivating novel that explores themes of love, religion, and sacrifice. The story follows Helena, a young woman torn between her desire for freedom and her duty to her family and religion.

Set against the backdrop of early 20th century Egypt, the author skillfully portrays the society's restrictions on women and the struggle for individuals to break free from the confines of tradition. Hichens' prose is both elegant and evocative, transporting readers to the vibrant streets of Cairo and the tranquil oasis of the desert.

Helena, the protagonist, is a complex character whose journey is at the heart of the novel. As she navigates the complexities of love and relationships, her experiences force her to question her own beliefs and challenge the conventions that imprison her spirit. Through Helena's eyes, Hichens explores the themes of spirituality, morality, and the search for personal identity.

The rest of the character ensemble is equally compelling, their lives intertwined and affected by the choices made by Helena. Each character is intricately developed, with their own aspirations, flaws, and inner turmoil. Hichens masterfully weaves their individual narratives together, creating a rich tapestry of human experience.

What truly sets A Spirit in Prison apart is its exploration of religious and philosophical themes. Hichens delves into the conflicts between Christianity and Islam, depicting the clash between the two belief systems with sensitivity and nuance. This aspect of the novel adds depth and thought-provoking layers, prompting readers to reflect on the nature of faith and the impact of dogma on personal freedom.

While the book is undeniably thought-provoking and beautifully written, there were moments when the plot felt slow-paced and meandering. Some readers may find themselves longing for more action or a tighter narrative, as the story occasionally gets lost in the intricacies of the characters' internal struggles. Nonetheless, the meditative quality of the novel enhances its themes, allowing readers to delve deeper into the philosophical questions posed throughout.

Overall, A Spirit in Prison is a thought-provoking and beautifully crafted novel that delves into the complexities of life, love, and personal freedom. Hichens' prose draws readers into a world rich with sensory details, while his characters and their struggles resonate long after the final page. This is a remarkable literary work, deserving of recognition and praise.

First Page:


By Robert Hichens

Original Transcriber's Note: This text was prepared from a 1908 edition, published by Harper & Brothers, New York and London.



Somewhere, not far off on the still sea that held the tiny islet in a warm embrace, a boy's voice was singing "Napoli Bella."

Vere heard the song as she sat in the sun with her face set towards Nisida and the distant peak of Ischia; and instinctively she shifted her position, and turned her head, looking towards the calm and untroubled water that stretched between her and Naples. For the voice that sang of the beautiful city was coming towards her from the beautiful city, hymning the siren it had left perhaps but two hours ago.

On his pedestal set upon rock San Francesco seemed to be attentive to the voice. He stood beyond the sheltered pool of the sea that divided the islet from the mainland, staring across at Vere as if he envied her; he who was rooted in Italy and deprived of her exquisite freedom. His beard hung down to his waist, his cross protruded over his left shoulder, and his robe of dusty grayish brown touched his feet, which had never wandered one step since he was made, and set there to keep watch over the fishermen who come to sleep under the lee of the island by night... Continue reading book >>

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