“‘Oh, Freya is a sensible girl!’ he murmured absently, his mind’s eye obviously fixed on the authorities. No; Freya was no fool.”
This little-known novella from one of the masters of the form is so unusual for Joseph Conrad’s work in several respects, although not in its exotic maritime setting or its even more exotic prose—it is unusual in that it is one of his very few works to feature a woman as a leading character, and to take the form of a romance.
Still, it’s a Conradian romance: a sweeping saga set in the Indian Ocean basin, against a turbulent background of barely suppressed hostilities between Dutch and British merchant navies, told by one of Conrad’s classically detached narrators. In the end, the unique perspective of the sharply etched character of Freya is one of Conrad’s most piercing studies of how the lust for power can drive men to greatness—or its opposite.