Abby's Reviews > Benito Cereno

Benito Cereno by Herman Melville
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's review
Jun 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: my-recommendations, for-school
Read in December, 2007

This short novel is a difficult read, I'll admit to that right away. But if ever a story was worth the difficulty, this is it! The story is a rare find: mystery, suspense, and horror, but arranged in a thoughtful, meaningful work of art. At first the book drags - the first few pages are tedious with exasperatingly long and seemingly meaningless details, but once the reader begins to understand the real story - the hidden conflict beneath the treacherous mask of normality, the reading is no longer such a struggle, because the plot becomes so important. The frustrating thing is that the reader begins to understand the danger, and sense the subtle tensions long before the trusting captain ever begins to suspect. It is agonizing, and suspenseful! Even before the reader knows for sure where the danger lies, the suspense is clearly present. The shaving scene was full of such horror and suspense that I am now am nervous around a straight razor.
There was some time at the end, where I felt the book dragged on longer than it needed. The conflicts all resolved so completely that I could not imagine what more could possibly need to be said. I complained about this, to a nearby companion. Why were there still several pages to read when nothing more could possibly happen? But I was foolish. A very important (although unwelcome) event awaited me on the very last page. So be sure to read to the very last page - the story is not over until then.

This is one of the best literary examples of illusion vs reality that I have ever come across.

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Bruce Kurkamp Benito Cereno is indeed one of the best examples of illusion vs reality ever written. Other reviews of Benito Cereno on this site go on and on about on the various human conflicts occurring in the book. These points are well made and quite valid, but it is like saying Moby Dick is great novel about a about a cursed whaling expedition with a bad ending when, in fact, Moby Dick is one of the greatest books on human obsession ever written.

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