Harold's Reviews > Erewhon

Erewhon by Samuel Butler
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's review
May 02, 2010

really liked it
Read from May 02 to June 06, 2010

I found this book fascinating, but not as a fiction. While the description of Erewhon is creative, the story is thin, with little in the way of narrative. The book is more interesting to me as a window into the mind of a 19th century iconoclast. It is plain in reading this book that Butler largely wrote it as a means of airing his feelings about victorian England, very slightly veiled. The afterword claims that the utopian satire was a new concept at the time, so I have difficulty judging how this book would have been received. I would suspect that if he had made the same statements in an unveiled manner, he would have been in deep shit. It it interesting to note how little has changed since Butler's time... many of the issues he rails on (the justice system, education, religion, social vs. biological imperatives, appropriate technology) are still hot button issues. It is sad, in a way, to see how little has changed since the victorian era. Other aspects of the satire are harder for a reader not well versed in victorian society to understand, as they are not a part of modern society, and require some notes to appreciate. It is fun to try and puzzle these out as you go along. Part of what makes this book interesting is the schizoid nature of the narrator. He will often present both sides of an argument, or argue against a plainly irrational claim, just to support one as plainly irrational. I think that this was Butler's real purpose, to force the reader to use the common sense that he felt was so desperately lacking in his time. A must read for those interested in victorian England.

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