(John E. Woods' new translation is highly regarded. For me, the tone of it seems a bit too contemporary for the text, but I presume it's a big advance over the previous translation which I haven't checked out.) Since this is a big complex multi-generational family saga of 730 pages, I figured I'd better draw up a list of characters as I read. However, after I had a list of about 75 characters, and sensing that there were hundreds more to come, I realized that such a list wasn't really necessary, for the book was written in such a way that it was very easy to remember who was who. This is an intimidating novel, but it turns out to be a surprisingly easy read. One also cares very much for the various characters, and has affection for them as if they were real, which they very well might have been. One is there when they are born, and when they are married, and when they die, generation by generation. It is amazing that Mann could have written such an ambitious book at such an early age (it was published in his 25th year), but it is much more than ambitious, it is very sophisticated, and very wise and profound in many ways. This is a book that can teach anyone at any age many things about human nature, or if not teach at least remind and/or clarify. I certainly feel as if I was learning a lot about the kind of social milieu my grandparents grew up in. The novel doesn't attempt to tie every single one of its "loose ends" at the end, but it has a grace and elegance that is very compelling from beginning to end. The society it portrays, in Lubeck Germany during the 19th century, is not particularly attractive one, and it is not one which one feels nostalgic for. It is gone for ever, but one does not wish it back. Number 8 on the Fireside Reading Club "A"-List, read 2/20/96.