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This review is from: The Europeans: A Sketch (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
I am a great lover of 19th century literature from the US or the UK. Whether it is the time and thought given to the observation of behaviours and feelings of characters during a much more slowpaced, leisurely period (and whether people therefore responded to situations in a more or less intense manner) - and what we have in common with such characters 100 plus years later - I cannot say. A mix of both I should think. But in most cases, the Emma Woodhouses, the Mrs Bennetts and Newland Archers are recognisable as people we may meet today. However, in this case, I struggled to comprehend fully many of the players.
I did enjoy this book but had to work to do so. Indeed, I had to go back and reread it to get to the nub of the message. At first blush, it does feel a little inconsequential as to story and motive; almost as if a thin transparent veil has been drawn over the story - so we strain to get to the meaning and essence of the characters. But it warrants further examination - if just to try and appreciate Madame Munster, her true nature and the impact she has on those whom she encounters. Who is she - stripping away the sophistication and worldliness. Is she a worthy person? Is she intelligent? Has she a kind bone in her body? A collation of manners? or is she merely a calculating manipulative gold digger? I fear I still do not know. Gertrude is also somewhat of an enigma, a naive innocent who nevertheless shapes her destiny with far more success than Eugena, whereas the men seem to be very much more straight foward and defined primarily by their response to the women in the book.
I did appreciate the twist - the frustration felt by Eugena that her plans came to naught despite all her cleverness and manipulation, whereas the impulsive and sincere Felix gets his reward. Perhaps that was the moral - directness and sincerity are not the sole provenance of either the Old or the New world and should trump worldliness, affectation and contrivance. Amen to that.