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The Charterhouse of Parma (The classic romantic thriller!) [Kindle Edition]

Stendhal , Marie-Henri Beyle , C. K. Scott-Moncrieff
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

NOTE: This edition has a linked "Table of Contents" and has been beautifully formatted (searchable and interlinked) to work on your Amazon e-book reader, Amazon Desktop Reader and your ipod e-book reader.

Marie-Henri Beyle (January 23, 1783 – March 23, 1842), better known by his penname Stendhal, was a 19th-century French writer. Known for his acute analysis of his characters' psychology, he is considered one of the earliest and foremost practitioners of realism.

The Charterhouse of Parma is often cited as an early example of realism, a stark contrast to the Romantic style popular while Stendhal was writing. It is considered by many authors to be a truly seminal work; Honoré de Balzac considered it the most significant novel of his time, André Gide thought it the greatest French novel ever.

The Charterhouse of Parma tells the story of the young Italian noble Fabrizio del Dongo and his misadventures during the age of Napoleon. The events center in the town of Parma and a castle on Lake Como, both in Italy, but other sites across Europe are also featured, including the Battle of Waterloo, at which Fabrizio fights for Napoleon.

Fabrizio's aunt, the femme fatale Gina, Duchess of Sanseverina, and her innamorato, the scheming Prime Minister, Count Mosca, concoct a plot to advance Fabrizio's career in the court of Parma. Gina is subject to the unwelcome advances of the obnoxious Prince Ranuce-Erneste IV, which she is engaged in repelling. It could easily be argued that Gina and Count Mosca are the true heroes of the novel.

Fabrizio is arrested for murder and imprisoned in the Farnese tower, from which he escapes with a rope; he also has a difficult love affair with his jailer's daughter, Clelia.

Ostensibly a romantic thriller, interwoven with intrigue and military episodes, the novel also features Stendhal's acute grasp of human nature and psychology.

A well-written, thrilling suspense story--a must-have for classic literature fans!

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'The Charterhouse of Parma often contains a whole book in a single page... If is a masterpiece' Balzac 'What you find so much of in this novel - and in this new translation more than ever before - is, in a word, life' New York Times


This is a novel of passion and daring. It seeks to conjure up the excitement and romance of youth, while never losing sight of the harsh realities which beset the pursuit of happiness.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping Drama, Great on Political Intrigue 26 Feb. 2011
By Colin C
Stendhal's second great novel, written in 1839, nine years after 'The Scarlet and the Black' is set in the years following 1815 in the small state of Parma. The hero (or anti-hero?), the wonderfully named Fabrizio del Dongo, is swept along by the tide of events around him - the Battle of Waterloo and the tides of political power in Parma, both of which Stendhal describes and illuminates with incredible detail.

The plot of the novel is gripping for the most part and has plenty of twists and turns, and the nature of power and ambition are analysed in a way which still feels completely relevant today. The only disappointment I felt on reading 'The Charterhouse of Parma' was that the much-praised insights on love seemed far less interesting. The handsome but empty headed Fabrizio, to me at least, was a hapless, selfish and irritating creature throughout the tale, a sort of cross between Johnny Depp and Bertie Wooster, relying on his gorgeousness and aristocratic birth for all the favours and adventures that he enjoys. The author tries to describe his development from someone too shallow to love, into a great passionate lover, but this doesn't quite come off. However, Parma remains a wonderful political novel and period piece of post-Napoleonic Europe. Highly recommended for these reasons.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parma Chameleon 22 April 2005
By A Customer
This book sits in my top ten novels of all time, next to the likes of Anna Karenina, War and Peace, Middlemarch, Crime and Punishment, The Karamazov Brothers, and of course the Red and the Black.
Why? Like the other authors of this select crowd, there's nothing about human behaviour Stendhal didn't understand. Dostoevsky will tell you all about the seamier side of life, Stendhal tells you about love - love in all its glory, fragility and pain - and he tells you about it as no one else can, with an empathy of startling depth. He wrote it in only about six weeks, too - not bad for a masterpiece of this calibre. Read the Red and the Black and On Love too, if you like this.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Parma with love, intrigue, laughs and war 16 Feb. 2011
Not long after Stendhal's "The Charterhouse of Parma" was published, Balzac wrote a review of the book and said: "One sees perfection in everything". And he was not wrong. Almost two centuries later - it first appeared in French in 1839 - the novel still is one of the best, most funny and captivating ever. Andre Gide and Henry James were also enthusiasts of this book. Recently Jonathan Franzen listed this novel in his top five.

But, for the modern reader, the one who can't focus on sentence longer than 140 characters, what does "The Charterhouse of Parma" have to offer? To begin with, a delightful journey. The length (about 560 pages in the Penguin Classic edition) can put many readers off, but after overcoming this anxiety and getting started it is, to use a cliché, impossible to put this book down. The prose is light - not to confuse with shallow - and the narrator comments are funny.

At first, "The Charterhouse of Parma" sounds like a historical soap opera - replete of intrigue, unfulfilled love, betrayals and so on - , but the story of Fabrice del Dong, his aunt, Gina, Duchess of Sanseverina, and her lover Count Mosca has all the qualities a reader can expect. Reading this Stendhal novel is like a ride in a roller coaster. There are some inconsistencies in the narrative - characters and events appear out of the blue, and, then, the narrator says, `we haven't mentioned that... ` - but, these flaws bring colors to the book. Fabrice is an early Forrest Gump who is inserted in important historical moments, but fail to realize them - specially early in the novel when he is crazy about Napoleon, and witnesses Waterloo.

What is most appealing in Stendhal's "The Charterhouse of Parma" is his view of the human condition and the irony of politics. The emotions the characters have to face are timeless and any reader, anywhere, can relate to them. Anyone can like this novel - and you don't have to be a writer as Balzac, Gide, James or Franzen.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what is advertised 9 Aug. 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The kindle edition is not the penguin classics edition advertised here. It is completely misleading that amazon lists it as such.

This sort of thing happens too often.
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyle-full... 21 Nov. 2010
By Sporus
This is a glorious novel - although I have not read this particular translation (by Richard Howard) and concede that the negative review here might be valid. It's a book that - like 'The Scarlet Letter' or 'Oliver Twist' - was set in the past when it was written and has the unity of an imagined world. It follows the 'sentimental education' of an overly romantic hero during the Napoleonic era with Stendhal's renowned wit and gusto. But while it takes in all the usual Stendhalian themes (love, the role of women, love, the delights of Italy, love, heroism, love, the duplicity of social behaviour, love and - well, what else - love) what makes it so exceptional among the divinely scattergun author's works is that for once he settles to a major theme and holds to it. Fabrizzio imagines at every turn in his life that he is in charge; but at every second turn he discovers that the choice he made had in truth been made for him. We are all, Stendhal suggests, pawns in a greater intrigue. It's a theme that bears comparison to Dicken's 'Great Expectations' although Stendhal is not Dickens, nor Dickens Stendhal. It is, of course, a classic book; but even among the classics it deserves a more popular standing.
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