The Lost Prince
The author of the beloved New York Times bestselling novel The Little Book returns with a sequel about a love that is capable of bridging unfathomable distances.
(Aug. 2012) Recently returned from the experience of a lifetime in fin de siècle Vienna, where she met and tragically lost the first great love of her life, Eleanor Burden has no choice but to settle into her expected place in society, marry the man she is supposed to marry, and wait for life to come to her. As the twentieth century approaches, hers is a story not unlike that of the other young women she grew up with in 1890s Boston—a privileged upbringing punctuated by a period of youthful adventure and followed by the inevitable acknowledgment of real life—except for one small difference: Eleanor possesses an unshakable belief that she has advance knowledge of every major historical event to come during her lifetime.
But soon the script of events she has written in her mind—a script described by no less than Sigmund Freud as the invented delusions of a hysteric—begins to unravel. Eleanor Burden, at once fragile and powerful, must find the courage of her deepest convictions, discover the difference between predetermination and free will, secure her belief in her own sanity, and decide whether she will allow history to unfold come what may—or use her extraordinary gifts to bend history to her will and deliver for her the life she knows she is meant to have.
I loved Selden Edwards’s first novel The Little Book and told everyone I knew about it. I just read his second novel The Lost Prince and think that Mr. Edwards has written his finest work so far. Once again, Selden Edwards demonstrates his mastery in blending together philosophy and art with the help of wonderful characters you fall in love with. The Lost Prince is a terrific second novel. - Pat Conroy on "The Lost Prince"
Brilliant. Selden Edwards is a writer of great intellect and wit, and his books are a joy to read. I love The Lost Prince. The Little Book made such an impression on me; The Lost Prince is even better. - Garth Stein (Author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain") on "The Lost Prince"
Book review: 'The Lost Prince' by Selden Edwards
Fans of Edwards' 'The Little Book' should be sustained by this sweet if complex tale of unshakable faith.
By Alice Short, Los Angeles Times
September 6, 2012
Three years ago, a first-time novelist and longtime English teacher named Selden Edwards popped up on bestseller lists with "The Little Book," a time-traveling fantasy that included stops in late-20th century San Francisco, 1950s New England and World War II era London, with a great deal of lingering in fin de siècle Vienna.
"The Little Book," in fact, opens as Wheeler Burden wanders the streets of the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is 1897, a somewhat bewildering time for a man who won't be born until 1941. But Wheeler adapts: He haunts coffeehouses, encounters Freud, Mark Twain and a very young Adolf Hitler, and has other memorable experiences with a youthful version of his father and an alluring woman named Weezie Putnam. By the end of the ambitiously plotted "Little Book," we discover the why of it all.
Edwards' freshman effort divided critics, but his descriptions of Vienna were singled out for praise, and author interviews reverentially referenced the 30-plus years he devoted to its writing.
Now we have the sequel, "The Lost Prince," and readers who are hoping that Edwards will continue with his "big ideas" — destiny, history, the role of the individual, undying love — will not be disappointed. His characters are terribly earnest, often anguished, which may be a turnoff for those who have not joined the Selden Edwards universe. The plotlines are complex and sometimes outlandish. But there's no denying the sweetness of unshakable faith that infuses the core of "The Lost Prince."
This time, Edwards views the world through the eyes of Eleanor "Weezie" Putnam, the girl who traveled to Vienna in 1897 in search of an adventure and found one in the arms of Wheeler — a spoiler alert seems necessary — whom readers of "The Little Book" know is her grandson (yes, it is complicated, but not in the way one might imagine).
Eleanor leaves Vienna and returns to Boston with a handwritten journal, Wheeler's journal, which sets the course of her life and, in some sense, the course of the world because it was written by a time-traveler who already knows of the Titanic disaster and the stock market crash of 1929 and … most of the history of the 20th century.
Eleanor's raison d'être is to somehow ensure that the events inscribed in the journal come true and that history won't be rewritten.
"She knew of the great events coming in the years ahead. She was to marry, for better or worse, Frank Burden, a man she didn't love; to raise with him three beautiful and talented children; to become a great social and cultural force in Boston; to count on the support of two extraordinary men, first William James and then Carl Gustav Jung; to watch helplessly the emergence of two horrific worldwide wars; to suffer great loss; and to die an old woman in the same house she had been born in."
And she was to mentor Arnauld Esterhazy, a scholar she first encounters in Vienna, then brings to the U.S. to teach at Boston's venerable St. Gregory's School for Boys.
"The Lost Prince" opens in May 1918 as Eleanor attends a memorial service for Esterhazy, who has somehow veered off the path. She has received notice of his death in Europe toward the end of World War I, thus upending one of the central plotlines of her future life. He was supposed to return to Boston and St. Gregory's after the war, resume his teaching career and become an academic hero and mentor to hundreds, including Eleanor's son and grandson, Wheeler. Eleanor pledges to somehow disprove his death.
Edwards includes quite a bit of backfilling of Eleanor's story, and much of "The Lost Prince" is devoted to Eleanor's unerring belief that Esterhazy cannot be dead and her subsequent journey to ensure that her destiny unfolds as written in the journal. Eleanor slogs her way through postwar Europe and hellish hospitals in her quest. Assisted by her contacts with two of the 20th century's most famous students of psychiatry, she also spends a fair amount of time plowing through theories of the unconscious mind.
Is it complicated? Yes, but Edwards' fans might suggest that detractors are missing the point: that for some, unerring faith is the most liberating force in the world.
Edwards’s sprawling second novel, it turns out, is no less a puzzle than his bestselling The Little Book, and follows on its heels in time, as Weezie Putnam returns from fin-de-siècle Vienna with a new name, Eleanor Burden, and a leather-bound journal that reveals “forthcoming events well into the twentieth century,” handwritten instructions that she believes will determine her destiny. This mysterious “Vienna journal” outlines a series of actions for Eleanor to take, throughout her life, that will make her not only wealthy but a crucial silent playmaker in world history, influencing the likes of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William James, all while maintaining the facade of a Boston socialite and devoted wife. One of her most significant contributions involves financially backing a conference to bring Freud to the U.S. with the help of her godfather, William James. But Eleanor’s personal triumph is securing a teaching position in Boston for a young Austrian named Arnauld Esterhazy, who becomes a mentor to her young son. But when Arnauld, “swept up in the fervor” of WWI, disappears from her life (breaking with the journal’s predictions), Eleanor’s unwavering faith in the journal is shaken, and she heads to war-ravaged Europe just days after the armistice in a desperate search for Arnauld among the makeshift hospitals that house so many men destroyed by the war. Once again, Edwards has a good time connecting historical events and philosophical ideas, and also connecting this book to his first, though many of those threads remain loose until late in the narrative, and parts of the book feel verbose. But Edwards’s bird’s-eye view of the details of this momentous age makes this companion piece as much fun as his debut.
Hints of time travel haunt this historical and philosophical novel set in early-20th-century Boston and Europe.
In 1898, Weezie Putnam returns to the States from a memorable trip to Vienna with three things: a manuscript, a ring and a journal. The manuscript lauds the genius of Mahler, and she publishes it pseudonymously under the name “Jonathan Trumpp.” The ring she sells for $5,000, an enormous sum, to provide seed money for future investments. And the journal—the most precious artifact of all—was written in the future and thus provides her with a window into major 20th-century events. One might also add that she returns with a new name, Eleanor, and thus with a new persona. Because of the information provided in the journal, she knows her destiny and starts ensuring it comes about. As predicted, Eleanor marries a prominent banker, Frank Burden and begins a series of investments that initially seem questionable, though her foreknowledge assures her of their inevitable exorbitant worth. She hires a man named T. Williams Honeycutt, because the journal has informed her that he will be important in the success of her business life, but he has a cousin with the same name, so it’s problematic whether she’s hired the right one. She takes her largest risk with a young Viennese intellectual named Arnauld Esterhazy, who becomes the father of her son and who seems to have died at the battle of Caporetto in 1917, but the journal has predicted a long life for him, one intricately interwoven with Eleanor’s. She’s so convinced of the journal’s truth that she makes a dangerous trek to postwar Europe to find him, and she succeeds. He’s shellshocked, and she takes him to Jung’s clinic in Zurich to recover. Throughout the novel, Edwards skillfully intertwines Eleanor’s predestined fate with her relationships to Freud, Jung, J. P. Morgan, William James and other historical figures.
A powerful, intense and fascinating read.
Time travel back to the turn of the 20th century with Selden Edwards’ THE LOST PRINCE. With a cast of characters that includes Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, and William James, it’s like Midnight in Paris for the neurotic set.
“This is a strange and unique love story. On the heels of Edwards' debut novel, "The Little Book" (which took the former English teacher 30 years to write), the author has crafted a daring follow-up. "The Lost Prince" is dense, in no hurry to answer plenty of early questions that it sets up. Indeed, many of these questions span the length of the book, as the reader wades through lengthy discussions and correspondence between the characters. Fortunately, the storytelling doesn't drag… Ultimately, the book is a meditation on love, faith, free will and one's purpose in life. And while not everything may be fully explained, Edwards has fun bringing most of it together in a satisfying way in an impressively written sophomore outing.”
Moving from America’s Gilded Age through WWI’s aftermath in Europe, Edwards’ delightfully imaginative second novel follows a courageous woman’s singular accomplishments and their far-reaching effects on history. In 1898, vivacious Eleanor Putnam returns to Boston from Vienna despondent after losing her greatest love, Wheeler Burden, but with important plans to set in motion. The journal Wheeler left behind predicts major twentieth-century events and tells Eleanor everything she must do to make her future and that of her descendants turn out as they should. This involves making secret investments, marrying her unexciting suitor, introducing Freud to America, and convincing a Viennese scholar, Arnauld Esterhazy, to teach at a Boston boys’ school. She succeeds brilliantly, but Arnauld’s unexpected wartime death threatens to destroy everything she worked for. Eleanor discovers she has a surprising amount of latitude for personal choice within her predetermined life, which keeps the plot unpredictable and fresh. Intelligent and romantic, The Lost Prince can stand independently of The Little Book (2008), which told Wheeler’s story, but why deprive yourself of the pleasures of reading both?
“Edwards' novel is a compelling tale of Eleanor's sacrifices in the name of family and love, reminding readers of the importance of each decision they will make throughout their lives, whether significant or trivial. "The Lost Prince" is clean in language and values, but mature enough to warrant an older audience.”
“Edwards' love for his characters ---- even the frightening J.P. Morgan with his "bulbous nose" ---- is striking and effective. They have blossomed and thrived under the caring, brilliant tutelage of a gifted author, whose enthusiasm seems boundless.”
Press & Media
Garth Stein on The Lost Prince
“Brilliant. Selden Edwards is a writer of great intellect and wit, and his books are a joy to read. I love The Lost Prince. The Little Book made such an impression on me; The Lost Prince is even better.”
-Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain
Pat Conroy on The Lost Prince
“I loved Selden Edwards’s first novel The Little Book and told everyone I knew about it. I just read his second novel The Lost Prince and think that Mr. Edwards has written his finest work so far. Once again, Selden Edwards demonstrates his mastery in blending together philosophy and art with the help of wonderful characters you fall in love with. The Lost Prince is a terrific second novel.”