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Effi Briest

3.26  ·  Rating details ·  9,675 ratings  ·  437 reviews
Telling the tragic tale of a socially advantageous but emotionally ruinous match, Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest is translated from the German by Hugh Rorrison with an introduction by Helen Chambers in Penguin Classics.

Unworldly young Effi Briest is married off to Baron von Innstetten, an austere and ambitious civil servant twice her age, who has little time for his new wif
Paperback, 364 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Insel (first published 1894)
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Average rating 3.26  · 
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 ·  9,675 ratings  ·  437 reviews

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I remember passionately identifying with Effi Briest when I was a young girl.

To me, it was so obvious that you have to do what makes you FEEL right, not what others THINK is right. Telling establishment to go to hell - secretly or not - was a sign of inner independence. Yes! Conventional marriage - bah, humbug! Follow your heart, live your life your own way, make your decisions accordingly.

Fast forward, twenty-five years later.

Do I still identify with Effi? Yes! And no ... Unfortunately, my ol
This is a book in which everybody gets what they wanted, whether they like it or not.

The eponymous heroine gets to marry a man of principals, her husband gets to marry somebody who he thinks (presumably) is just like her mother who he had wanted to marry twenty years earlier and Major Crampas gets to die in combat just as he always wanted.

Social Stricture
Fontane prefers to tell simple stories and Effi Briest is no exception. The plot is very simple and loosely based on a true story, the strength
Steven Godin
Effi Briest (1895) is an impressive work of Prussian realism and it's definitely classed as a 'tragic novel', one may argue one of the best to come out of the 19th century. The story is simple enough, hardly unique, and been done with similarities many times over since. Geert von Innstetten, an ambitious nobleman and civil servant on the brink of middle age, makes an uncontroversial marriage to Effi von Briest, the 17-year-old daughter of a former flame. Innstetten takes her back to the town in ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Subtlety is an art form rarely seen in our era. We live in a time where bombastic, loud, and graphic compete for our senses. But does one really need that much noise and glamor in order to captivate? Are we really that inattentive? Theodore Fontane’s Effi Briest is the rare novel that exercises graceful restraint yet echoes more than the proverbial cannon. It tells the story of a young woman who yields at everything thrown her way - from her marriage to a much older man, life in a backwater town ...more
With "Effi Briest" Fontane delivered a wonderful social study about forced feelings, social conventions and the consequences of an outbreak of all constraints.
Briest is undeniably a classic of German literature and especially of civil realism / social novels in the 19th century.
German novelist, Thomas Mann, said that if he could only have six novels on his bookshelf, Effi Briest would be one of them. Effi Briest (1896), Theodore Fontane's Realist novel, tells the story of seventeen year old Effi, her arranged marriage to a much older man, her youthful, almost innocent, mistake of being seduced into adultery, and her tragic fall from grace and from her position in society.

Effi Briest has been compared to Madam Bovary and Anna Karenina because of it's subject matter, bu
While Theodor Fontane's 1896 novel Effi Briest is definitely and with justification considered a classic and as such a masterpiece of German poetic realism, the author's (and with that also of course the narrator's) at times overtly critical textual distance (which when it materialises does tend to feel and read rather like an emotionless, critical analysis) also renders Effi Briest and by extension author Theodor Fontane himself as somewhat a literary midwife to the development of the 20th cent ...more
John Hatley
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those classics of German literature that I enjoyed reading much more after graduating from university, where reading such great literature was required, forced, rushed and dissected until its beauty was no longer visible. It's a book I might soon enjoy reading a third time (and maybe even give it another star). I am giving another of Fontane's greats, Der Stechlin, an identical "review".
Mar 28, 2019 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who think 19th century novels about female infidelity are boring
Fontane wasn't terribly good at making stuff up. He tended to take real life incidents to seed his imagination. In this case the model for Effi Briest was Elisabeth von Plotho, whose affair with a local magistrate, Emil Hartwich, became serious enough for them to consider divorcing their respective spouses until Elisabeth's husband, Armand Léon von Ardenne, became suspicious, broke open Elisabeth's secret stash of love letters, used them in evidence in his own divorce proceedings, and further ch ...more
Jan 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: germany
This is one of the most important works of German poetic realism: Fontane employs his trademark quiet and elegic tone and juxtaposes it with the tragic story of 17-year-old Effi who is forced to marry a much older man during the Wilhelmine Period (the story was first serialized in a magazine and then published in book form in 1896). As the book is conceptualized as a "bürgerlicher Gesellschaftsroman", so a novel that talks about the mores and manners of the bourgeoisie, it is the lack of express ...more
Dec 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, read-2018
This was quit different from British classics, which I normally read.
First of all, most of it was more subtle and less dramatic. It is about an unhappy marriage but it's neither terrible nor abusive it's just flawed: both husband and wife are actually to a certain extent nice and likeable people, even if they have their issues. Also there was no passionate adoration for a lover or other clichés, everything was really toned down and felt more realistic, like similar things could have happened to
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Effie Briest is the name of the tragic heroine here, so this is like the Madame Bovary of Germany, because the author was born in Berlin and this was originally published in German in 1894--118 years ago.

The original title in German was the same: Effie Briest. When it was translated into English the title was retained (names shouldn't be translated) so when I first got hold of a copy of this book last 12 February 2012 I thought "Effie Briest" was some kind of a German philosophical concept. It
Mar 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1800-1900, reviewed
I had been meaning to read this novel for ages, but, when I did, I read it in a completely inappropriate manner, gobbling it down in one sitting on a long-distance flight in the manner of a Dan Brown. That’s not at all how it’s meant to be consumed; it’s a finely crafted, subtle, allusive work that deserves a much more patient reading. I went back at the end and reread the first chapter, saturated in hints and prefigurings, and I decided I should probably read the whole thing again.

One great ple
May 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Effie Briest, which I read a few years ago, is Theodor Fontane's most popular novel. We meet the protagonist as an intelligent, exuberant, and privileged child growing up on an estate outside Berlin during the Wilhelmine era. The novel is about Effie's arranged marriage at the tender age of 17 to an ambitious provincial bureaucrat, who is old enough to be her father.

When Baron Geert von Innstetten, a minor protege of Bismarck, asks Effie's parents for her hand in marriage, her mother presents he
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just realised I've never written a review for this. It's been more than 10 years since I had to read this for school but I still remember how I always compared Fontane's description of the old Prussian ways and the society with the worlds described by Tolstoy.
Back then, I gave this 3 stars. Today, I'm going to give it 4 because now I appreciate the writing style much more because its melancholy (that almost made me hate the book at times back then) perfectly reflects Effi's world.

The story is
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Opening lines:
In front of the old manor house occupied by the von Briest family since the days of Elector George William, the bright sunshine was pouring down upon the village road, at the quiet hour of noon. The wing of the mansion looking toward the garden and park cast its broad shadow over a white and green checkered tile walk and extended out over a large round bed, with a sundial in its centre and a border of Indian shot and rhubarb. Some twenty
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel, classics
As always, Fontane perfectly captures the spirit of the time he lives in: the strange code of honor, the complicated relationships between family members, and the many problems stemming from arranged weddings. His protagonist just wants happiness, and because she violates the rules of society along the way, she is broken and her life is ruined - all of this is told mastefully and distanced, yet with an incredible love for details in societal life.
This one had a huge influence on German literatu
Mary Durrant
Dec 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written sad story of young Effi.
She marries a man much older than herself and finds herself in a remote provincial town on the Baltic.
Then comes Grampus a womanising officer who brightens up her days.
I love the Newfoundland dog called Rollo who plays an important part in the story.
There are consequences years later with a tragic outcome.
I loved it especially the stunning cover picture!
Jul 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully unsentimental and haunting.

I’m still surprised by how entirely absorbing this one was. The set-up is one most will recognise: a spirited and unworldly young woman packed off into an advantageous but emotionally-lacking marriage. Effi Briest is a tale of female infidelity, aligned closely with the likes of Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, and yet entirely original in its own right.

The stark contrast between Effi’s idyllic Brandenburg childhood and her marital home on the fringes of Po
Ms. Smartarse
The book was translated into English with the same title: Effi Briest

Effi is a spoiled 16-year-old whose parents decide to marry her off to a man older than her own father, all for the sake of the girl's future well-being. As if the future husband's age weren't enough of a deterrent, it is revealed early on, that von Innstetten (the husband-to-be) used to court Effi's mother before she got married. *insert witty allusion to Oedipus*

A boy

Interestingly enough, the parents' main concern is Effi's exube
Shawn Mooney (Shawn The Book Maniac)
Tortuously boring. Do these characters have bodies? The stilted and oh-so-intellectual dialogue was a crime against literature. Oh my god I am so out of here after suffering through a quarter of this novel.
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Part of my agenda this year is to read classic novels that have been forgotten, using several reviewers' lists. Thomas Mann considered Fontane's Effie Briest one of six best novels ever written.

Set in Pomeranian Germany in the late 1800s, It is a classic story of what can go wrong in an arranged marriage. Effi is a vivacious, carefree 17 year old when Baron von Instetten arranges with her parents to marry her (and to drive home his own views on such arrangements, Fontane notes the same baron had
Resh (The Book Satchel)
17 yo Effi gets married to a much older Instetten, a former flame of her mother's who was turned down for a better match (Effi's father) by her mother and is now in a prominent position in government service. The age difference, Instetten's dedication to his work and Effi's loneliness drives her into the arms of a womaniser. She desperately tries to save the marriage.

Effi exactly the way she is- naïve and eager to settle down as a prominent lady in the circles. She might come off as a girl with
J.M. Hushour
Mar 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've kept this in my library for years and thought it deserved a re-read since it had been so long and I couldn't remember why I had it sitting around.
I'm hard-pressed to think of a more chilling and at the same time morosely beautiful novel which does its damndest and largely succeeds in pointing up the excruciatingly stupid lockstep of "tradition". Trapped in their conservative social mores, all the characters are doomed. The titular heroine, one of the greats of literature, is married off to
Mattia Ravasi
Aug 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Video Review

One of the most stimulating and surprising ghost stories I've ever read, nested within a novel of astonishing psychological complexity.
Thoughts soon.
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Effi Briest is a nineteenth century German classic – that should really stand beside Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina. A nineteenth century novel in translation written by a man, is not an obvious choice for publication by Persephone – although the themes of unequal marriage, society and the consequences of adultery make it a perfect match.

“ ‘Look, Mama: it doesn’t matter that he is older than me. Perhaps it’s even better that way. After all, he isn’t really old, and he’s healthy, vigorous, soldi
I'm a little unsure as to how I should rate this book. Because I have to do a presentation on it I read it very closely, which led me to appreciate it more than I would have otherwise. It wasn't quite enough for me to up the rating to four stars though.

I don't really have any problems with this novel, except that the main character annoyed me at times. Effi is a very lively and emotional young woman, and maybe it is telling that I disliked her only in the middle portion of the book, when she is
Elena Sala
EFFI BRIEST (first published in German in 1895) is the story of a young upper class girl who is persuaded to marry a man old enough to have married her mother. The book is based on a society scandal on which Fontane modelled his novel.
Effi belongs to the 19th century genre of spirited young women, whose very spiritedness becomes troublesome in the world of bourgeois convention. She is far too lively for the late 19th century Prussia, a country halfway between a feudal, militarised state and a fr
I ... didn't mind this? It's a stiffly written, rather melancholy little book and took longer than it should have to read; perhaps the translation could have been better. The dreariness of Effi's first marital home is conveyed well. I liked Effi. I liked that there wasn't the instant death or death-in-life after transgressing; Effi is represented as ultimately perishing through lack of respectability but she does try to make a life for herself. But I didn't really understand what the point of it ...more
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I Read Therefore ...: October 2013 Monthly Read- Effi Briest 54 31 Oct 28, 2013 01:55AM  

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Theodor Fontane, novelist, critic, poet, and travel writer, was one of the most celebrated nineteenth-century German men of letters. He was born into a French Huguenot family in the Prussian town of Neuruppin, where his father owned a small pharmacy. His father’s gambling debts forced the family to move repeatedly, and eventually his temperamentally mismatched parents separated. Though Fontane sho ...more

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