1001 Books Round-Up December 2021
The final round up of the year. Did we go out on a high?
Buddenbroooks by Thomas Mann – Quarterly Read – What GR says: Buddenbrooks, first published in Germany in 1901, when Mann was only twenty-six, has become a classic of modern literature.
It is the story of four generations of a wealthy bourgeois family in northern Germany facing the advent of modernity; in an uncertain new world, the family’s bonds and traditions begin to disintegrate. As Mann charts the Buddenbrooks’ decline from prosperity to bankruptcy, from moral and psychic soundness to sickly piety, artistic decadence, and madness, he ushers the reader into a world of stunning vitality, pieced together from births and funerals, weddings and divorces, recipes, gossip, and earthy humor.
In its immensity of scope, richness of detail, and fullness of humanity, buddenbrooks surpasses all other modern family chronicles. With remarkable fidelity to the original German text, this superb translation emphasizes the magnificent scale of Mann’s achievement in this riveting, tragic novel. Definitely a great family saga
My Thoughts: Reading this alongside The Magician by Colm Toibin really added to my enjoyment. It was interesting to learn that Mann was somewhat vilified for the thinly veiled references to real life people in his family circle. It was also interesting to learn that he identified himself not with the head of the family but with poor doomed Hanno.
For a debut novel whose author was only 26 when published this is an outstanding work of fiction. It was also interesting to see how life ended up imitating art.
4 Stars well worth reading.
Justine by Lawrence Durrell – BOTM – What GR says: In the first book of Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, the story of the mysterious and charismatic Justine is told by her lover, an impoverished Irish teacher who has sought refuge across the Mediterranean in Greece. It is a love story, but the real heroine of the book is its setting: the city of Alexandria, with a sky of ‘hot nude pearl’ and a thousand streets below, crowded, sensual and exotic; a complex and heady mix of elegance and poverty. The city is the best character that is for sure.
My Thoughts: I loved the poetic use of language and the descriptions of Alexandria but I really didn’t care for any of the characters. There was so much angst and misplaced love I almost felt that the characters were not grown-ups but teenagers behaving badly.
I can see why this was included on the 1001 list as the non-linear way in which the story is told was a new way of storytelling but that still doesn’t make me like anyone any more.
3 Stars – read this for the beautiful language and the city but the humans nah forget them.
The Judge and his Hangman by Friedrich Durrenmatt – BOTM – What GR Says: A genre-bending mystery recalling the work of Alain Robbe-Grillet and anticipating the postmodern fictions of Paul Auster and other contemporary neo-noir novelists. I can’t include the rest of what they say because…major spoilers!
My Thoughts – Set in post WWII Switzerland this is a detective novel with a twist. The isolation of the location and the insight into the political influence on policing was definitely interesting. This could easily be a movie and a great movie if done properly.
4 Stars – highly readable grab this one for sure
The Ambassadors by Henry Games – Tackle the TBR – What GR says: Sent from Massachusetts by the formidable Mrs. Newsome to recall her son, Chad, from what she assumes to be a corrupt life in Paris, Strether finds his intentions subtly and profoundly transformed as he falls under the spell of the city and of his charge. He is quick to perceive that Chad has been not so much corrupted as refined, and over the course of the hot summer months in Paris he gradually realizes that this discovery and acceptance of Chad’s unconventional new lifestyle alter his own ideals and ambitions.
One of Henry James’s three final novels, all of which have sharply divided modern critics, The Ambassadors is the finely drawn portrait of a man’s late awakening to the importance of morality that is founded not on the dictates of convention but on its value per se. Well I am on the so-so side of this divide.
My Thoughts: At just over 500 pages this book does require the reader to make a pretty hefty commitment to it and what do they get in return…not a lot.
There is a lot of wondering around Paris, a lot of thinking, a lot of moralising and a lot of confusion and at the end I was left thinking was that it?
I liked the central premise that rather than saving the son the “ambassador” instead finds himself saved by Paris and the alternative lifestyle which appears to be superior to the American lifestyle he has left behind.
3 Stars – Not a lot happens good or bad which makes it a middle of the road book.
Have you read any of these? What did you think?