Monday, August 25, 2014

The 306 Greatest Books #123 - The Way of All Flesh

The next book up on my reading of the 305 Greatest Books is The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List.

When I first started reading The Way of All Flesh, I wasn't sure what I was getting myself into. I read one chapter, then two days later I started reading the second chapter and realized that I had absolutely no clue what happened in the first chapter. So I reread it. After the second chapter, I had another two day break and the same thing happened again. It wasn't that the story was difficult to read or hard to understand, it was just utterly forgettable. After the first 50 pages though, the story got much better. I realized that the reason I kept forgetting what was happening was because each chapter jumped in time, but only a little. It wasn't noticeable until you realized that the previous chapter did not follow the next one directly. A little confusing, but like I said, it got better as the story became more linear. The story follows the life of a man, Ernest Pontifex, as he is raised, then becomes ordained, and eventually finds life outside of the church. However, the first 100 pages or so are focused on the Ernest's ancestors as told by a family friend and godfather to Ernest. I was surprised at the story though and how anti-Christianity it was. Ernest's parents were proper Christian folk, with his father being an ordained minister. However, they were lying, deceitfully, cruel, and always blameless in their own eyes. In essence, horrible parents. Later in the story, as Ernest becomes ordained, he eventually falls out of the church by studying various aspects of the Bible and finding them unbelievable. By the end he is writing books all about how wrong Christianity is. I had not expected that when I went into the book but actually found the anti-church motif it rather interesting. The writers portrayal of women though was a little less desirable. There were three women in the story, the horrible mother, the alcoholic wife, and the obnoxious sister. Not a good one among the bunch. Overall, the writing of the book is ok, not great. Some of the sentences are difficult to read and I had to reread several of them just because they were awkwardly phrased. But in the end I would say that the book was ok, not great but not horrible either. I just felt "meh" when I finished it. Not much of an endorsement, I know.

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