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GREEN MANSIONS by W.H. Hudson (Dover: $6.95)

December 10, 1989|CHARLES SOLOMON

Orginally published in 1904, William Hudson's fulsome novel epitomizes the romanticized, 19th-Century European vision of nature. Abel Guevez de Argensola, a Venezuelan adventurer, is smitten with a burning but chaste passion for a Noble Savage: Rima, the lovely jungle maiden who speaks to the animals and clothes herself in silk from spiders' webs. That this paragon of unsullied innocence should turn out to be Caucasian is both hilariously improbable and perfectly in keeping with the conventions of the genre. Although Hudson's patronizing attitude toward the South American Indians is sadly dated, "Green Mansions" rivals even "The Prisoner of Zenda" as escapist fiction par excellence.

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