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Three Lives

3.19 of 5 stars 3.19  ·  rating details  ·  2,174 ratings  ·  180 reviews
Gertrude Stein, as a college student at Radcliffe and a medical student at Johns Hopkins Medical School, was a privileged woman, but she was surrounded by women who were trapped by poverty, class, and race into lives that offered little choice. Her portraits of Anna and Lena are examples of realistic depictions of immigrant women who had no occupational choice but to becom ...more
Hardcover, 402 pages
Published February 5th 2000 by Palgrave Macmillan (first published 1909)
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Ken Moten I can't, at this moment, remember the third story in detail, but I can say that the freedom of choice for a woman is at issue in these stories. The…moreI can't, at this moment, remember the third story in detail, but I can say that the freedom of choice for a woman is at issue in these stories. The first story sees a woman take a more uniquely tradition role despite what circumstance as dealt her. The heart of the book is the second story which deals with a woman who goes against tradition and becomes a proto-feminist in a world that was not kind to people like that.

I am amazed you decided to read this book since it is very hard for even the best native English speakers to read it.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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matt

I refuse to give it any stars...for this reason alone:

I was assigned it in undergrad (or at least one chapter, "Melanctha") for a class about white writers and how they construct race in their fictions.

I only read maybe 20 pages of said story, and no more, and ended up writing a 15 page paper on it. I was stoned and drunk at the time, having partied the night before I realized it was due. I kept going, the smoke and booze fueling my all-nighter. And, what's more, I clearly remember praying t
...more
Darwin8u
These stories were certainly interesting. Each of these stories was interesting. Certainly, after reading them, I thought each of the stories by Gertrude Stein interesting. When I read them, I never knew if I could stand them enough to find them interesting. I did, however, stand them and by the end I did find them mostly interesting.

The second story was certainly the strongest. The second story was "Melanctha" and I think it was the strongest. It certainly was the longest. The flow of this nov
...more
MJ Nicholls
Oct 23, 2012 MJ Nicholls marked it as sampled  ·  review of another edition
My first, and probably last, experience with Gertrude was the illuminating Penguin Classics intro (damn those academics—they raise your hopes!) and the first 15pp of ‘The Good Anna’ which utilises Stein’s revolutionary modernist technique—bland, basic descriptive sentences intercut with laughable dialogue, then the same bland, basic descriptive sentences repeated in a different way, with unnoticeably different dialogue no less tittersome. Per parody example: Anna was sad. Miss Mathilda scolded A ...more
Hadrian
The first story, 'The Good Anna', seems to be almost a direct copy of Flaubert's A Simple Heart. A short story about a simple passive houseservant and a parrot that keeps her going. Ah well. If you're going to steal be influenced by someone, you might as well take from the best.

The second story is called 'Melanctha'. The second story is repetitive. The second story repeats itself. The second story uses the same language often. The second story repeats itself. It's unbearably sweet at times, but
...more
James
The only suggestion I have for those unenamored with Stein’s prose is to read it aloud; over and over and over. Much of Three Lives is demanding in the extreme (anyone who can make it through “Melanctha” in one sitting has my undying admiration [this coming from someone who has finished Women and Men]), but if/when Stein’s methods “click” for you, the gorgeous, intricate rhythms they produce will already have been tattooed on your psyche. The stories’ timbre (particularly that of “The Good Anna” ...more
Meen
Aug 23, 2008 Meen rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No, I just don't think I should.
Recommended to Meen by: Curiousity.
Shelves: fiction, own-it
So, I got through the first story, "The Good Anna," without too much strain thanks to the helpful introduction in this edition that explains Stein's repetitive writing style. I wasn't particularly impressed, but I enjoy reading older fiction as much for the window into how life looked in the past as for the story. Again thanks to the introduction, I was prepared for the inevitably racist caricatures of black folks in "Melanctha" and was looking forward to what the intro author suggested was the ...more
Lara
Hmm...Three Lives? Classic. Moving. Brilliant. Ground breaking....How about lousy?

In literary studies, Gertrude Stein is always discussed with such reverential deference that to criticize her work is deemed anti-intellectual and absurd. Nevertheless, I feel I can say with great confidence that Three Lives is one of the worst books I have ever read.

While reading "Melanctha" for a Modernist American literature course, I struggled with the baby language and ceaseless repetition. I get that she's t
...more
Scroutch
Melanctha was a very short story that was good. Melanctha was a very short story that was repetitive but good. Melanctha was a story about a woman whose life was very short, repetitive, and not always good.
Sierra
Gertrude Stein was a large, generous American woman who was a writer and a great lover of the good, warm, echoing-round sunshine of her own rosy prose. Gertrude Stein lived in Paris for many years and while she lived in Paris Gertrude Stein did write about serious, good, innocent women who were always unfortunate and who always did come to bad ends. Gertrude Stein wrote a novel in her own most ambitious rosy style, about innocent women who came to bad ends, that was very plain and true and full ...more
Carrie
Technically I didn't read all of this, but I have decided will never finish Getrude Stein’s Three Lives - my life is just too damn short.

The book consists of three short stories/novellas about three women. The first, which I read in its entirety was titled “The Good Anna” and was about a German woman who lived her life as a servant to a number of wealthy Americans. It was ok – I thought that Stein was somewhat condescending to her character, since she kept repeating how “good” and “simple” she w
...more
Eric Cartier
This book almost broke me. Until I went back and found how many beautiful and/or stirring passages I had marked, I was planning to give it the dreaded single star. I started Three Lives last spring and enjoyed "The Good Anna," the relatively brief first story. Then the lengthy "Melanctha" confronted me. In this story, Stein's strangely structured sentences are constantly twisted into different configurations, so that what could be a breezy exchange between two characters becomes an unwieldy, rep ...more
Mark
I started this with the thought that I would read books that came out exactly 100 years ago ... and all I can say is, sorry, Gertrude. Maybe this was before you met Alice and broadened your horizons.

The first of these stories about everyday women was The Good Anna, a portrait of a single, hardworking, somewhat narrow minded German housekeeper who liked to serve large, lazy, monied women. OK, as far as it went, despite some very odd syntax. But then we get to the second story, about Melancthon He
...more
Lori
I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein. I really liked 3 Lives, Gertrude Stein, even though it was a little repetitive. It was a little repetitive but made me think. It made me think, Gertrude Stein, that you are really quite a genius because it is very hard to write this way, Gertrude Stein. Gertrude Stein, thank you.
Ken Moten
This book of three stories is an interesting piece. It was written by the first significant female writer of the modernist movement and the 20th century at large. Three Lives contains three different stories about women, with the second story, Melanctha, being the highlight and the size of a standard novella. The protagonist of the story was unusual in its time as she was a Black proto-feminist in some respects.

Now this book has a habit of turning some people off because of its style. The oral
...more
Miguel
Mesmerizing prose and thought provoking content, Three Lives is a masterwork of modernist fiction. Engaging with the limited syntactical toolbox that Stein employs is as much fun as coming to understand the arch of these three stories. The novel is a bonified classic.
Moni Smith
Reading this was slow torture. I made it to page 37 before I couldn't take anymore. If I was still in college and forced to read it for class I would finish. But, thank goodness, my college days are long behind me and I don't have to play by those rules.
Scot
I have always been intrigued by Gertrude Stein and her Lost Generation expat comrades, and I have enjoyed reading some of her poetry, autobiography/memoir, and experimental fiction in the past. I needed something to pass the time while riding a commuter train, so when I chanced upon a copy of this, her first published book which she wrote in 1905-06 and published in 1909, I decided to give it a go.

It consists of biographical sketches of three different women. The first, "The Good Anna," runs 50
...more
melita
i dont recommend reading this unless you are familiar with the way Gertrude Stein writes. I have read a lot about this woman recently and I find her fascinating! however her writing is difficult to read. I had to put myself into a character and take my time. Although I do appreciate the repetitiveness of her writing since I have a horrible memory! the first story, The Good Anna, was very pleasant to read... and at many times I was mad at Anna for the way she was acting and letting herself get ta ...more
Kristen Shaw
The content is horribly dry but the novel is nonetheless interesting due to its form. I love Gertrude Stein as a personality but I find her writing very inaccessible (that's her whole point, yes, I get it). I enjoy a challenge, but Three Lives in particular was tough to get through. Knowing Stein wrote the novel as a response to Cezanne, in the Cubist style, made the experience more tolerable. I viewed each of the three stories as one component of a total composition; the structure creates a par ...more
Nat
When the horrible racism is not even the worse thing about the book you're reading, you know you're dealing with some quality shit. Hey, life is boring and repetitive! Let me show you how boring and repetitive it is by writing boring and repetitive stories! Because, really, who doesn't want to read 10 times about "the wide, abandonned laughter that makes the warm broad glow of negro sunshine". Brain bleach would be welcome right now.
Jennifer Richardson
Stein wrote this as she was still struggling to find her voice. As a racist, sexist, anti-Semite Jewish lesbian, finding her voice proved to be a challenging task. The most intriguing story is Melanctha--a heterosexual, racist re-telling of her own first love triangle, captured less eloquently in QED. Stein was in constant conflict: her need to express everything was always truncated by her fear-based need to hide. While in her later works she finds brilliant ways to balance these needs, Three L ...more
Camille Mccarthy
I was expecting this to be a well-written book at the very least, as Gertrude Stein is so well-known, but it was one of the most terribly written books I've ever read. Additionally the three stories were extremely boring, very vague at times, and seemingly pointless.
The prose of this book is described as "simple" and "straightforward" on the book jacket but it was not straightforward at all, it literally went in circles saying the same exact thing with slightly different words over and over a
...more
Gina
There's only so much ground you can get out of playing with style in such an obvious way before the reader starts wanting something more out of the story than a girl being yelled at by the authority figures in her life and dying of consumption, no matter how easy the author makes it to parody her.

The reason I didn't give this only one star is that in my heart of hearts is that I'm still a little swayed by the idea of an American literary canon and I kind of applaud Stein for convincing everyone
...more
ericka
Some thoughts: context matters. Don't read Stein, and especially Three Lives, unless you know what you're getting into, because after the 743th "certainly" you'll certainly want to kill everyone in this book and you'll certainly want to kill everyone around you and please god let it end with the "certainly"s, please, Melanctha darling, please.

Don't, also, "read" this via Walter Zimmerman's 1988 audio book. It's excruciating in the most literal sense of the word. It was the eighties and I'm sure
...more
Tarah
This is, I don't know, the 3rd time I've read Three Lives. This is Stein at her more accessible (include with that The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, of course) and there are some important overall takeaways here about the nature of art and knowing, reading and sensing, ontological worth and Otherness, etc. These are worth reading (and it is, as an aside, a novel I'm currently teaching), but I don't, I admit, think it's Stein at her best. The novel is more impressionistic than, say, cubist (l ...more
Marie Michaels
I have no idea how to rate this book! The language is simple and repetitive, which is clearly a conscious choice on the author's part. It creates almost a sing-song, fairy tale feeling for these stories of very ordinary women struggling through their lives under the restraints of gender, race, class and their own flaws. This is one of those books that I think would be better to read with a course of study than just tackling it by the pool and on the train, as I did -- the prose is deceptively si ...more
Brad
When I can't figure out how to say what I want, I open to a random page of Three Lives. I will not say it like Ms. Stein, but she will loosen my tongue so that I might say something .
Ruth
I mistakenly thought 3 novellas would be a quick, easy read. And, perhaps, if there was a software package that could delete repetitive phrases it would have been a much shorter read. But I did finish it. I did want to quit or move on in the midst of Melanctha's thing, but I continued on.

Initially I didn't think Anna was all that good, but after reading the book, she was the best of the bunch.

Melanctha had some issues and she surrounded herself with others with issues, not a good mix.

Gentle Lena
...more
Rachel
Despite the fact that one of my favorite cultural periods was the era of Expressionism bleeding into Modernism, I'd never read Gertrude Stein. And Kathy Bates in Midnight in Paris certainly did an excellent job making Stein seem fresh and exciting. Much more exciting than her own writing does. While it's clear that she was making a radical shift into emphasizing formalism rather than narrative, slogging through the repetitive, limited vocabulary, particularly in "Melanctha," was the reading vers ...more
Ilze Folkmane
I am actually very surprised to admit that I really, really like this book. I'm not on the best terms with modernist literature as such, but I enjoyed reading '3 lives', especially the part about Melanctha. In this part, which basically is about the unraveling of a woman's life, it can be clearly seen that Gertrude Stein has such insights into humans as very few people can boast.
The language is flowing, surprisingly easy to read, though it is also extremely repetitive, so no wonder many people d
...more
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Gertrude Stein was an American writer who spent most of her life in France, and who became a catalyst in the development of modern art and literature. Her life was marked by two primary relationships, the first with her brother Leo Stein, from 1874-1914, and the second with Alice B. Toklas, from 1907 until Stein's death in 1946. Stein shared her salon at 27 rue de Fleurus, Paris, first with Leo an ...more
More about Gertrude Stein...
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas Tender Buttons Picasso Selected Writings Paris France

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“You look ridiculous if you dance
You look ridiculous if you don't dance
So you might as well
dance.”
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