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The Ordeal of Richard Feverel; A History of Father and Son [Hardcover]

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.2 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Meredith's Bildungsroman 6 Aug 2005
By Sherringford Clark - Published on
George Meredith is best known for his poetry and his later novel _The Egoist_, and these are indeed the best places to begin with Meredith's oeuvre. _The Ordeal of Richard Feverel_ is not nearly as lapidary in style or as acute in psychology as _The Egoist_. The latter work also illustrates Meredith's famed comic theory, though this is somehat in evidence in _The Ordeal_.

In the final analysis, Meredith's own judgment of _The Ordeal_ is the correct one: it is novel whose dullness proves fatal. Moreover, though _The Ordeal_ displays a sophisticated morality, Meredith's Bildungsroman is greatly inferior to Goethe's model _Wilhelm Meister_. Meredith is neither as perspicacious a psychologist nor as great a stylist as Goethe.

Nonetheless, _The Ordeal_ is a successful dramatic work and provides a wonderful addition to the British Bildungsroman. Furthermore,_The Ordeal_ is a very modern novel, featuring a number of unstable narrative voices, a pervasive intertextuality, and a subtle ironic spirit. Though Meredith's prose, like his poetry, is often overly precious, _The Ordeal_ proves him an incisive writer, leagues above many of his contemporaries, e.g. Thomas Hardy. Indeed, _The Ordeal_, along with _The Egoist_, provides a direct link between the Victorian and the modern novel, and thus, while hardly a masterpiece, it is well worth the time for any reader interested in the development of the English novel.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny, Wise, and Brilliantly Written 18 Nov 2005
By Florizel - Published on
I started reading George Meredith in an English class at Hunter College, where a brilliant professor assigned us *The Egoist.* Although not as great as that novel, The Ordeal is quite rewarding on its own terms. The story begins with the tale of a comically embittered misogynist who responds to his wife's adulterous romance (with poet and best friend "Diaper Sandoe") by rejecting women *en toto* and deciding to raise his son Richard in isolation from society. Well, "we shall see how the experiment turned out." Richard, needless to say, reaches the age of 15 and discovers that contra his father, girls have their charms. Things go from there. The book is filled with funny, quirky and brilliant characters rendered in delightfully elaborate prose. It isn't, contrary to one reviewer's remark, Dickensian at all; for unlike Dickens, Meredith has something to say. He is not so much periphrastic as he is precise. I found The Ordeal quite funny -- I've read it three times -- as well as heartbreaking and wise. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Victorian fiction. I would start here and then go on to *The Egoist*, possibly the wittiest novel ever written.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Greatest 19 July 2008
By James M. Rawley - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the greatest English novels. Even when it was first published, all the reviewers agreed it was hard to read, so see if you like the wit and sarcasm of a page or two before you start it. If you like one page, you'll like them all. The story is not so much about how the father's educational system fails his son, as it is about how every uncle, aunt, and cousin Richard Feverel has, along with his father, loves him and tries to bring him up well, but finally fails because of life's unpredictability, the power of sex, and their own deadly prejudices. The ending is a little bit less melodramatic than THE GREAT GATSBY's, and the two books are similar in showing what happens to a rich rebel against the values of the very rich. It mixes comedy and tragedy, which was a first, and Meredith apologised for boring his readers. He was a pro. But if you're lucky enough not to be bored by this book, you'll get deeper into the Victorian upper class than any other book can take you, or even dares to take you.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Ordeal: Eden Revisited 27 Aug 2006
By Martin Asiner - Published on
THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL is a novel that suffers from the author's inability to decide whether he wished to write a comedy that had tragic overtones or a tragedy with comic undertones. The result is neither a literary fish nor a polemical fowl. George Meredith was just starting a long career when he wrote this book, in which he later made numerous changes, omitting many unneeded characters, the result of which was to create a slightly more coherent work.

Part of the problem with the reader's blending into the book was the scattershot sprinkling of religious allegory that Meredith uses to emphasize his theme that man was born innocent but corrupted by scheming women. Meredith mentions more than a few times the word "apple" in an Edenic context, a symbolism which tends to flatten his characters into updated biblical figures. In real life George Meredith was hurt by an uncaring father who probably was the model for Sir Austen Feverel, who decided to recreate the biblical confrontation between Adam, Eve, and the snake. Only this time Sir Austen would eliminate the snake and give Adam advance knowledge of Eve's duplicity. Adam is Sir Austen's son, Richard, who from birth is taught to accept the teachings of a new system which emphasizes the growth of positive personal attributes on one hand and a watchful caution of womanly wiles on the other. Richard, then, is groomed to be a successful sociological Petri dish in which Richard avoids the apple bite that ensnared Adam. The problem, of course, is that a man is not a dish, and for the entire experiment to succeed in the sense that Richard would grow up as his father wished, then Sir Austen would have to have the same divine foresight that God has. All he has is a wish to prevent his son from suffering as he himself suffered at the hands of an unscrupulous woman, but this desire is not enough to shape Richard's growth into a healthy direction. Predictably, Richard drifts in and out of trouble, sometimes aided by his father's money, and other times by the timely intervention of trusted companions. Later, when Richard falls in love, he is not equipped by nature or training to withstand the womanly wiles of a lady whose hired job is to do just that. Thus Sir Austen's grand design has a cracked flaw that results in tragedy for Richard and his beloved. THE ORDEAL OF RICHARD FEVEREL, in its unwieldy mixture of romance, tragedy, drama, and bible lore run amuck, becomes more of an ordeal for the reader than for Richard.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful edition! 12 Nov 2006
By M. K. Richards - Published on
The BiblioBazaar edition of this book is awful! It is filled wiwth typos, grammatical errors, and syntactical problems. Awful!!!
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