The Fencing Master Hardcover – 1 May 1999
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Described as a "master of the intellectual thriller", Arturo Perez-Reverte has established himself as a major figure in European fiction. The English translation of The Fencing Master, first published in Spanish in 1988, follows the critical success of The Flanders Panel and The Dumas Club.
Contemplative, skilful, and--in a quiet way--melancholy, The Fencing Master is a foray into historical fiction: Perez-Reverte draws his figures against the background of a Madrid sweltering on the eve of Spain's September Revolution in 1868. Each of its eight chapters begins with an epigraph to the art which emerges as a way of interpreting the world through this novel: fencing. Jaime Astarloa, the master, has made fencing his life and legacy, and it's through his eyes--the eyes of a man who wants to resist the vulgar progress of 19th-century politics and passions--that the mystery, and tragedy, of the book unfold. It begins with a woman who wants to learn fencing--"At that moment, someone knocked at the door, and nothing would ever again be the same in the fencing master's life"--a woman who draws Astarloa into a world of political and erotic intrigue which will test his art to the limit.--Vicky Lebeau -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.
"You will want to reach the book's nearly perfect ending in a single sitting" (Time Out)
"The author is in the best sense a romantic and to read him is to rediscover the delights of Dumas and Conan Doyle" (Amanda Craig The Times)
"As assured and elegant as Don Jaime's sword thrusts" (Stephanie Merritt Observer) -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine andere Ausgabe: Paperback.
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Top Customer Reviews
But I enjoyed this book immensely.
I bought it (from a normal bookshop, I confess) because I liked the cover and was interested in the first few pages. It's short, and usually I prefer longer books - it can give the author more time to explore their characters, but this is short and perfectly formed.
Don Jaime, the fencing master, is getting older and sees his living starting to dry up as swords and the art of fencing are replaced by more 'modern' weapons and pursuits. He uses fencing, and his pursuit of the perfect, unstoppable thrust to give his life form and context, ever unchanging against the background of turmoil engulfing Spain.
His life is turned upside down when a woman, beautiful and mysterious, persuades him to take her on as a student. He slowly finds himself falling in love with her, and his life is thrown into turmoil.
One the one hand, this is a thriller, plain and simple. Refined and elegant, but a thriller nonetheless. On the other, it is a study of a man entering old age unable to cope with the changes going on around him, and trying to cling onto the past - for that reason alone it will endure.
The only complaint I had about it is that the fencing terminology (of which there is much, as you would expect) is not explained. An appendix containing a glossary or perhaps even some diagrams would be tremendously helpful. I appreciate it's not really the kind of thing that books like this have, but if, like me, your knowledge of fencing is restricted to occasionally seeing it on the Olympics or in Zorro films, then all of the discussions or quatre and terce, foils and sabres is difficult to follow.
That said, it's a minor complaint, and the book is very enjoyable, and surprisingly moving.
Don Jaime lives in the past and tries to shut himself away from the turmoil occurring around him. His personel quest is to invent the unanswerable sword thrust. Despite his best endeavors Don Jaime is unwittingly pulled ever further into the intrigue occurring around him.
Don Jaime is a man of great passion but with an inability to bring voice to that passion; he is a man of deed and unspoken honour. Alone even with people around him, he is put to the sword by the passion of a dark beautiful women who becomes his pupil. Adela de Otera is young, modern, outward thinking, dark and complex but also a superb fencer.
The author contrasts Don Jaime Astarlo's ideal world where honour is upheld toe to toe with the real world in which a stab in the back is the reality. Jaime Astarlo's world is blown apart, you could view him as a failure through his inability to grasp reality and his naivity or a success in living to his ideals against all odds. Does the Maestro fail or do the people around him fail to match his standards?
The thriller storyline in this book is quite predictable but it is the beauty in which the story is told and the characters portrayed that makes this a great book.
Apart from that, it's a decent book. It's a detective story set in mid nineteenth century Spain. The main character is a reclusive fencing master in his fifties, who through a mysterious female client becomes embroiled in grizzly political intrigue.
The actual detective plot is a bit unoriginal but aside from that it is quite a touching story about an idealistic and lonely man trying to deal with the onset of old age. I liked the pacing (trotting along steadily most of the time and accelerating with suitable vigour towards the conclusion). The language and the general style of the narrative I found in places a bit wooden and contrived, but not so much as to really put me off.
All in all, I quite enjoyed the book, although I can't say I feel greatly enriched for having read it. My final judgement is: if you like detective stories and/or period drama you'll most likely enjoy 'The Fencing Master', otherwise, it's not really worth the bother.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I first came across Perez-Reverte as a result of discovering that it was he who wrote the book (Le Club Dumas) upon which one of my favourite films of all time, "The Ninth... Read morePublished 13 months ago by J. Rottweiller Swinburne
My aunt loved this book, I sent it to her because I had I like it so much. The characters are are well written, they come to life. Read morePublished 21 months ago by V. Perry Child
If, like me, you tire of some of the near 1000 page novels, The Fencing Master will be a pleasant experience. Read morePublished on 4 April 2011 by Mark
A mystery, a love story, a political thriller but above all a beautifully written and equally beautifully translated novel that insists on being read almost at one sitting. Read morePublished on 15 Oct. 2010 by J. Warner
I write this review in part as a response to the accusations that Perez-Reverte's debue novel 'The Fencing Master' is more cliche than touche. Read morePublished on 11 Mar. 2003
The reviewers of this book have said most things about this excellent novel. It is refreshing to read a well constructed novel which creates the characters with considerable... Read morePublished on 9 Jan. 2003 by TheThree
Like a less intellectual Umberto Eco novel, this is a well written and intelligent thriller.
Senor Perez Reverte keeps the pace going all through the story, though you may... Read more