Monday, February 02, 2015
Susan asked me to propose some titles for the next Slaves read-a-long, and I’m happy to oblige.
I chose books I haven’t read in a genre I don’t know well but want to know better: short 19th Century novels. (Here’s hoping Rohan hasn’t read them all…) These books are all about 200 pages and represent five different European languages. Like almost all novels of the period, it seems, they are primarily about the predicament of women at the time.
Vote for your choice in the comments, let’s say by Valentine’s Day. We’ll aim to discuss the book starting April 1st, no foolin’.
Honoré de Balzac—Eugénie Grandet (1833)
“Who is going to marry Eugénie Grandet?” That’s the question at the heart of this novel, one of the first in the sprawling canvas of Balzac’s Comédie humaine. Eugénie’s father, a wealthy miser, has his own answer to the question. But when Eugénie’s orphaned and penniless cousin arrives, she counters with a different one, such that the father’s cunning is matched against the daughter’s determination.
Anne Bronte—Agnes Grey (1847)
Agnes Grey eagerly takes up her post as governess, only to be disabused of that confidence by her unmanageable charges. The novel promises to be about work, though romance is present too, when Agnes meets the local curate.
Theodor Fontane—Irretrievable (1892) (Also translated into English as No Way Back)
Set in Holstein about thirty years before its date of publication when the area still belonged to Denmark, Irretrievable tells the story of a mismatched couple who have been married for 23 years—Count Helmuth Holk is fun loving; his wife Christine is solemn. The two slowly drift apart, a movement exacerbated when the Count is called away to the court. As the copy of one of two recent editions into English puts it, the couple “find themselves in a situation which is nothing they ever wished for but from which they cannot go back.”
Benito Pérez Galdós—Tristana (1892)
Don Lope pays off a friend’s debts, at the same time assuming responsibility for the friend’s orphaned daughter, Tristana. He takes her into his home—and into his bed. Tristana accepts the arrangement willingly enough, at least until she meets a handsome young painter. Soon she surpasses the Don in defiance of convention.
Ivan Turgenev—Home of the Gentry (1859)
“Another’s heart is like a dark forest,” we learn in this novel about a man named Lavretsky who returns to his native Russia after his marriage falls to pieces in Europe. Unsure what to do with himself, Lavretsky visits the estate of his widowed cousin and her two small children. Regret, indecision, and, as the passage about the wilderness of the heart suggests, heartbreak ensue.
Posted by dorian stuber at 10:14 PM