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A Tale of a Tub
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1001 book reviews > A Tale of a Tub by Jonathan Swift

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Diane  | 2051 comments Rating: 2 Stars
Read: July 2016

I did not like this book. I had to struggle to keep my mind from wandering as I read it. The saving grace is that it was short, and free, since it is public domain. I recently read A Modest Proposal, which I thoroughly enjoyed. This was different. I can't really explain why. Probably because I couldn't relate to it and often felt that it went over my head. It is not an easy book to read and follow along with.

The book is a satire mainly about religion. There is an underlying symbolic story about three brothers, each representing a different branch or aspect of religion. There just were too many digressions off this story line to really follow it, though. Overall, I felt that the book went off on too many tangents and was difficult to comprehend. I'm sure it must be brilliant, since it has generated many favorable ratings. I just don't get it. I think I need a Tale of the Tub for Dummies version.


Kristel (kristelh) | 4207 comments Mod
Rating 2 stars
Read February 2019, TBR takedown

When I put this on my TBR pile for 2019 I did not realize what a chore this would be. I loved A Modest Proposal for wit and humor but this early and most intense satire by Jonathan Swift was a real drag. The author is writing a satire and from what I can decern, is about Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinism. It is also intermixed with satire of critics and modernism. Yes, modernism of the 1600s. I am sure this is included in 1001 Books you must Read because Swift is surely a pioneer and probably the greatest satirist of all time. However, this is more an essay than a novel. Interspersed is the story of three brothers; Peter (catholic) Martin (Martin Luther) and Jack (John Calvin). I enjoyed those parts the most. The style that this is written in is also apart of the parody and I am sure that if I were to read this as part of college course or a learned group, there would be much to find. Mostly I found this book great for getting 40 winks.


message 3: by Leni (new)

Leni Iversen (leniverse) | 470 comments Short but dense and full of digressions.

No actual tub is involved in this story. Apparently sailors used to toss a tub into the water as a distraction if a whale came near. I'm not entirely sure why Swift felt the need to distract the pundits by writing an allegory of Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvinism, and intersperse it with satire over booksellers, critics, readers, writing conventions, scholarly research, esoteric societies, numerology, and no doubt a great many other things that I have already forgotten or never noticed in the first place. And then there's all the in-jokes that require a more than passing familiarity with Plutarch and Dryden. Swift mentions wanting to keep "the wits" too preoccupied to attack the Commonwealth, but I'm still stuck with a big ol' "Why?" virtually hanging over my head in a cartoonish thought bubble.

I'm not sure whether the writing is sheer genius, or if it is too self-indulgent. It is definitely exhausting.

I don't think this belongs on the List. It is too inaccessible. It requires an enormous amount of background knowledge, or alternatively a Spark notes guide or other commentary.


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