Remember that moment in The Shawshank Redemption when Andy Dufresne finally escapes from prison? He is standing in the rain with his arms outstretched, breathing in the fresh air of freedom after tunneling through several miles of shit. That is exactly how I feel right now after finishing Seldon Edwards’ The Lost Prince. At almost 500 pages in length, I just dragged myself through a sewer pipe full of literary feces, and now that it is finally over, I can try to pick up the pieces and move on with my life.
I can’t escape the feeling that I missed some vital plot element that would explain the purpose of this novel. The protagonist, Eleanor, leaves her Boston home after college to spend some time in Vienna in the late 1800s. There, she meets and falls in love with an alleged time traveler who gives her a journal that systematically reveals tasks that Eleanor must complete throughout her lifetime in order to secure future events. The time traveler dies in some tragic accident, and Eleanor immediately sets to work on her to-do list. Her tasks include returning to Boston to marry Frank Burden, having some kids, cheating with a guy named Arnold and having his son (who is destined for greatness), setting up a fund, making lots of money, etc., etc.
The entirety of the novel discusses Eleanor’s pursuit of these tasks, punctuated by long, meandering asides and some bizarre cameos by Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. As no one seriously questions Eleanor’s sanity, I have no idea why these men have even been tossed into the mix. In fact, the entire plot seems pointless – if Eleanor meets the time traveler in the first place, obviously everything works out like it should and no one should have to follow specific directions to alter the future. Moreover, this book could have easily been half the length if Edwards had no recounted every single letter that Arnold wrote home, which is only one example out of the countless instances in which Edwards dwells on irrelevant details in an already convoluted novel.
I actually listened to The Lost Prince as an audiobook. I’m not saying that this is the sole cause of my trauma, but the narrator definitely played a vital role in this travesty. Angela Brazil – if you are by some miracle reading this, please take the following into consideration: there is no need to annunciate every syllable – you are not speaking to a room full of preschoolers. Furthermore, your attempted Austrian accent consistently came across as an unfortunate impersonation of the terminator; although this was initially humorous, enduring 18 hours of an overly-annunciating Schwarzenegger could rival Chinese water torture.