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1001 Books Round-Up February 2021

This months winners and losers sneaking in right in the last few hours of this short month that has felt too long.

Hyperion by Friedrich Holderlin BOTM #1 – Synopsis from GR: Hyperion is a novel of stirring lyricism, philosophical sublimity, and enduring influence. It stands among Hölderlin’s most extraordinary achievements. A Greek hermit recounts the pivotal phases of his life, from his discovery of the vanished glory of antiquity, through his encounter with his beloved Diotima, who embodies his goal of merging with “the All of nature,” to his participation in a Greek uprising against Ottoman Turkish tyranny. Hölderlin’s sole novel has been celebrated for its musicality, the power of its cadences and tones to express a constant oscillation between extremes of grief and joy. Though Hölderlin’s genius was not widely recognized during his lifetime, he has come to be regarded as one of the most significant and unique poets in the German language. Unfortunately his genius was not recognised by this reader.

My Thoughts: I feel I would have gotten more from it if it was a school book with someone to guide you through all the symbolism and meaning as a casual reader I appreciated the poetic use of language, I rolled my eyes at all the melodrama and ultimately despite only finishing this last night most of it has already leaked out of my brain.

3 Stars – read it for the melodrama and move on with your life.

The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse BOTM #2 – Synopsis from GR: The final novel of Hermann Hesse, The Glass Bead Game is a fascinating tale of the complexity of modern life as well as a classic of modern literature.

Set in the twenty-third century, The Glass Bead Game is the story of Joseph Knecht, who has been raised in Castalia, the remote place his society has provided for the intellectual elite to grow and flourish. Since childhood, Knecht has been consumed with mastering the Glass Bead Game, which requires a synthesis of aesthetics and philosophy, which he achieves in adulthood, becoming a Magister Ludi (Master of the Game).  Succinct and to the point.

My Thoughts: Right up until the last section – Lives this was a 5 star read after reading that it reduced to a 3 star read. So what was the problem with the Lives section? Basically it added nothing to the world building or to my understanding of Knecht as a person instead it took the central events of the main novel and turned them into a “story” retelling complete with Princes, magic etc. For me this was unnecessary and just felt like an effort to read.

The other issue I have with this book (although I didn’t have it at the time of reading) is the setting. This is supposed to be a society in the future so one would assume they are more highly evolved, better educated and generally more socially advanced than us. So why is the Game set in a male only environment, why is there no technology, why do the men live like monks cut off from society and why are there no three dimensional female characters?

While reading the book I was imagining it as being set in the past, a medieval time, and honestly the whole landscape makes much more sense within that time frame. As a futuristic novel it doesn’t work for me.

3 Stars – great beginning but the ending dragged.

The Absentee by Maria Edgeworth – Tackle the TBR – Synopsis from GR: Lord Colambre, the sensitive hero of the novel, finds that his mother Lady Clonbrony’s attempts to buy her way into the high society of London are only ridiculed, while his father, Lord Clonbrony, is in serious debt as a result of his wife’s lifestyle. Colambre travels incognito to Ireland to see the country that he still considers his home. When he returns to London he assists his father to pay off the debts, on condition that the Clonbrony family return to live in Ireland.  Pretty much sums it up.

My Thoughts – I really enjoyed this family saga about (Absentee) Irish landlords who leave their estates in the hands of unscrupulous agents while they enjoy the highlife in England.

The book includes a solid dose of romance, incognito travel, reuniting of estranged families, fortunes made and lost and a biting social commentary about the responsibility of landlords to their tenants and how a local hands on friendly approach is much better than just sitting back and counting the cash.

It also highlights that it is better to have genuine friends whatever class they may be from rather than trying to buy your way into society.

3 Stars – relatively short, definitely entertaining and with a hero you could fall in love with (after you have slapped him for being so judgemental).

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