I suppose that many Americans are reminded of The Great Gatsby when they first sit down with Alain-Fournier's only novel. And it isn't just the title....moreI suppose that many Americans are reminded of The Great Gatsby when they first sit down with Alain-Fournier's only novel. And it isn't just the title. The young narrator, Francois Seurel, tells the story of Augustin Meaulnes, an older boy who comes to lodge and study at the boarding school in Sologne which Francois' family runs. Like Gatsby's, Meaulnes' is a story of love won and then lost. And like Gatsby, Meaulnes remains something of an enigmatic character. But whereas Fitzgerald's story, a comment on the decadence of the Jazz Age, has money as the agency of the hero's climb and eventual fall, Meaulnes is a Romantic figure, and the novel seems to be an allegory, not just for Romantic loss, but for the loss of Romanticism itself. Meaulnes, like many have written, is like Peter Pan, torn between the worlds of love and adventure - and youth; and, that of the staid and responsible and work-a-day. But in this story Never-Never land turns out to be a misunderstanding. The magical forest fete that Meaulnes stumbles upon during his escape from school turns to be just a traditional wedding party. My reading of Meaulnes eventual downfall is that it stems from his inability to reconcile the real and the Romantic.
In all, though, a pleasure to read. So many events that stir up emotions from my own childhood and adolescence, and worth reading just for the vivid depictions of country life in Sologne.(less)
Charts, in great detail, the transformation of the losely-knit Christian sects into an orthodoxy unified around a single creed and backed by the power...moreCharts, in great detail, the transformation of the losely-knit Christian sects into an orthodoxy unified around a single creed and backed by the power of Rome, during the time of Constantine and his successors. Makes the case that the split between the Athansians, who promoted Christ as God, and the Arians, who emphasized his humaneness, was largely a cultural schism between East and West, and foreshadows the eventual split of the church into two.(less)
This book has become recently famous due to the parallels between the plot of two young people following in love, sight unseen, over the wireless, and the modern phenomenon of internet dating, or hooking up, or virtual twerking, or whatever it's called. My favorite quote: "I suppose no one really means what they say on the wire. I am sure I do not!"
But there is something else that I found amazing about this book, and that is how modern the heroine is. It's 1880, but young Nattie sounds like a frustrated young millenial: "I am ambitious" she declares to her roommate. "My present position can never content me. I am haunted all the time by an uneasy consciousness that if I was smart I should be doing something to get ahead."
The peripatetic adventures of White Fang, half-wolf, half-dog, in which the hero attains redemption by leaving the wild for civilization, reshaping hi...moreThe peripatetic adventures of White Fang, half-wolf, half-dog, in which the hero attains redemption by leaving the wild for civilization, reshaping his instincts to comply with the laws of men, and, in the end, drawing on his savage inner nature to save the day. I read this out-loud to my 10-year old son, and he was entranced. (less)