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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

One of my favorite books as well as a favorite movie is The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I'd read the book years ago and just read it again with a new release for eBook platforms.

Josephine Lesley wrote the book in 1945 under the pen name R. A. Dick. It was published only in the United Kingdom and received interest in the United States after the movie was released starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

The book and movie are not to be confused with the television series that ran in America from 1968 to 1970; the series was a sitcom with slapstick comedy and not at all like the original book and movie.

Like all great books, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir shows a transformation in the main character. Left widowed at the age of 34, Mrs. Muir must break free of her oppressive, Victorian in-laws and begin life anew on her own terms. She moves her children with her to a seaside town where she purchases a run-down home left vacant for years after the previous owner, a sea captain, purportedly committed suicide there.

Mrs. Muir discovers Captain Gregg early after her arrival and also discovers that his death was accidental and not a suicide at all. He remains with her in the house and when her money has run out and she is facing destitution, he writes his memoirs through her. The book is published to great financial success, allowing her to remain financially independent for the rest of her life.

Mrs. Muir is transformed from a young, naive woman to an independent, self-sustaining woman. Yet through it all, she never wavers from her love for Captain Gregg, even after he disappears from her life and she is left wondering whether he was only a figment of her imagination. In the book, he does not appear visually at all but is a voice that only she can hear; yet with his accent, his colorful language and his memories of life at sea, she could not have mistaken him for imagination. Movies, of course, are visual mediums, so in the movie he is seen as much as heard - but again, only to her -- until she discovers years later that her daughter also saw him and had fallen in love with him as well (though not romantically as her mother had).

I loved reading about the tiny village near the sea and of the old home where Mrs. Muir lived and where Captain Gregg had died. The Victorian era was extremely oppressive and women looked down upon, and I had difficulty reading how she was treated by her in-laws before she managed to break free.

The new release has a forward by Adriana Trigiani and I learned more about the book and the movie. I hadn't known that it was shot entirely in California and that the shots of the sea were taken along the Pacific coast in Malibu. While the movie does not stick with the book entirely, it is a wonderful adaptation that stays true to the spirit of the story (pardon the pun).

I do not know why Ms. Leslie wrote the book under the pen name R.A. Dick. When my first book was released under p.m.terrell, I was asked numerous times if I was trying to hide the fact that I am a female. (For the record, no, I wasn't.) But the idea intrigued me, and I wondered if Ms. Leslie had encountered gender bias in the 1940's and believed her only hope to getting the book published was under a pen name that could be mistaken for a male. She died in 1979 and there is very little about her life on the Internet.

Below is one of my favorite videos; this is a trailer for The Ghost and Mrs. Muir to the music of Alex Band's Wherever You Will Go.