A novel about the gradual fall of the Italian nobility, largely through the eyes of Don Fabrizio, aka the Leopard. The book takes various quasi-relateA novel about the gradual fall of the Italian nobility, largely through the eyes of Don Fabrizio, aka the Leopard. The book takes various quasi-related snapshots from Don Fabrizio’s life and uses these to show the decline of the Italian (specifically Sicilian) nobility in the mid-19th century.
Lampedusa critiques and compares the pretension and languidness of the nobility with the avarice and coarseness of the up and coming middle class. The setting of the novel is largely in a fictional Sicilian country estate called Donnafugata. Don Fabrizio’s nephew (a young rogue named Tancredi) seeks after and eventually marries Angelica, a woman of poor blood but of good prospects as her father is one of the rising middle class. Their relationship is seen through the eyes of Don Fabrizio and is clearly intended to be an allegory for the merging of the classes in Sicily. While the novel assumes the process is inevitable, there is a clear sadness about the loss of certain aspects (specifically the love of beauty and philosophy) of the nobility of the time.
Throughout the novel, Don Fabrizio believes that though changes are inevitable, the nobility will remain. However, at the end of his life he realizes that he is the last of his kind, and not only the nobility itself, but its collective memory and consciousness will be lost.
Overall, a very well-written novel with beautiful prose and a fitting (if somewhat melancholy) conclusion.
"Such thoughts were disagreeable, as are all those that make us understand things too late, and the Prince's face went solemn and dark as if he were following an invisible funeral car." p. 95
". . . he at this moment would have been happily ensconced in his study next to the terrace in Villa Salina, listening to the tinkling of the fountain and trying to catch comets by their tails." p. 172...more
This book reads like a fable. The atmosphere is ethereal, almost mystical. Not really a novel, but a series of adventures involving the Archbishop LatThis book reads like a fable. The atmosphere is ethereal, almost mystical. Not really a novel, but a series of adventures involving the Archbishop Latour and his sidekick, Father Villeal. It is really a picture of the American West in the 1800s.
The story begins in Rome where several higher-ups in the Catholic Church are determining whether the territory of New Mexico is worth the effort of sending a competent priest there. Eventually, Father Latour is chosen as his reputation wisdom and endurance is touted. He moves to New Mexico with his servant, Vaillant, and the real adventures begin. He travels the country and meets its native Indian population, allowing Cather to use her beautiful prose to describe the old west as she remembers it.
It is beautifully written story, but contains a weak plot lacking in narrative greed. For Ms. Cather, it is apparently not about the story, but the joy in the telling....more
Waugh described the subject of his novel as “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters” and seen though thiWaugh described the subject of his novel as “the operation of divine grace on a group of diverse but closely connected characters” and seen though this prism, it is clear that Waugh is attempting to show that everyday actions that seem random at the time are actually part of a divine plan.
The story begins with our narrator Charles Ryder as an officer in the British Army in World War II. His unit is moved to a new location (Brideshead) which is very familiar to Charles. The reader is then taken on a journey through Ryder’s childhood memories, mostly concerning Brideshead the family that lives there.
We first learn of Ryder’s best friend, Sebastian Flyte, who Ryder has an almost unhealthy obsession with. They are classmates at Oxford and eventually become inseparable. While on holiday, Sebastian takes Ryder to his home at Brideshead where Ryder is eventually introduced to the whole Flyte family including Sebastian’s elder brother (Brideshead), his sister (Julia), his mother (Lady Marchmain) and eventually Lord Marchmain.
The family is Catholic and the religion deeply affects each of them, but with very different results. Initially, Sebastian struggles with his Catholic identity (possibly because of homosexual tendencies) and eventually turns to drink; Julia shuns her religion and marries the non-religious Rex; Lady Marchmain (her voice was as soft as a prayer and just as powerful) is too judgmental with her family; and Lord Marchmain who has renounced Catholicism all together. Only Brideshead (that “half-baked monk”) fully acts in accord with his religion.
The characters evolve throughout the novel and end in very different places than they begin with Ryder being a witness (and our guide) to all that occurs. While their eventual fates seem tragic by earthly standards, the theme (and end) of the novel allow the reader to see things in a different light, namely though the lens of Grace. For example, when asked by Ryder whether “without your religion Sebastian would have a chance to be a happy and healthy man”: Brideshead answers indifferently “its arguable.” The point being that it is the soul that matters and if the body must undergo trials and pain for the betterment of the soul, then so be it. This can be seen clearly in the deathbed conversion of Lord Marchmain, a man who did everything he could to flee from God (and largely suffered for it), but in the end, because Grace prevailed, died happy. This is what Waugh wants his reader to see, that one cannot escape the Grace and Love of God once it has been experienced, even in a watered down, partial way. The “twitch upon the thread” (a GKC reference) will always bring the man who has experienced Grace back in the end. Eventually, Ryder takes into account all that he has seen (and all that Grace has done) and makes his own decision at the end of the book. (or is it his decision). He considers all of the loves he experienced in his life as mere “forerunners” to the Divine love of God. While seemingly a mere spectator to most of the events in the book, the twitch upon the thread has, in fact, pulled Ryder in as well. ...more
The Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager fThe Road goes ever on and on Down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the Road has gone, And I must follow, if I can, Pursuing it with eager feet, Until it joins some larger way Where many paths and errands meet. And whither then? I cannot say....more