Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 306 Greatest Books #144 - The Red and the Black

The next up on my reading of the 306 greatest books is The Red and the Black by Stendhal. This book can be found on the Sybervision Book List and the Norwegian Book List.


Before I started reading The Red and the Black I was warned by a friend who kept saying that it really wasn't a good book. This did not get my hopes very high and I kept pushing the book off. However, since I am at the very end of the Sybervision Book List it was time to sit down and read it. The translation I read was that used in the Everyman's Library and was remarkable easy to read. That made the book rather enjoyable, at least at first, because I could jump right into the book without having to get used to the writing style. In regards to the story, I was under the impression (for some reason, I do not know) that this was a war story, similar to War and Peace or Les Miserables. Oh, how wrong I was. Apparently, this turned out to be a "romance" novel, and not one that was very well constructed. The main character, Julien Sorel, goes through two main loves in the book, which the book is divided into two main parts accordingly. Through most novels, the reader is made to feel for the protagonist, and to hope they succeed. Julien, though, was just a pain in the ass. At times he was overly arrogant, at others he was wishy-washy. He wanted one thing on one page, then would flip to the exact opposite the next. And the women he was lusting over had the same problems. The back and forths got to be so bad that I couldn't really care less what happened at any one moment, I just wished the story would progress somewhere, anywhere. I did find the hints of a fascinating story mixed in there though. There was at one point that Julien seemed to get mixed up in the politics of the time (just after the fall of Napoleon), which was the aristocracy versus the church, and he was to travel to England to deliver a message. However, that storyline was dropped so quickly that I had to go back and reread a few pages to find out what happened. That excitement is what gives me hope that the other Stendhal novel on my list, The Charterhouse of Parma, could be a great read, but I'm not holding out too much hope. Overall, the style of writing was very easy to follow and I just flew through this rather long novel, but the story itself kept having me banging my head against the wall. There is no way can I endorse this garbled mess.


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