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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
7
4.6 out of 5 stars


on 26 September 2013
An early classic by one of the great French writers of the 20th Century, this short novel poses something of a challenge to the reader. It is presented as a diary, or rather a series of notations in two notebooks. These recollections are written by a married
Protestant pastor, the mere fact of which would seem to suggest we're dealing with a truthful, unbiased account of events. However
all is not what it seems. It's worth noting that Gide's original working title was "l'Aveugle" (the blind person), and worth stressing that the French noun can refer either to a male or a female blind person. Well then, having got that out of the way, I can tell you that the events the pastor writes about concern a young blind girl that he has taken into his care. At the outset she is mute and unresponsive, uneducated and unfamiliar with the world. The pastor takes it upon himself to educate this girl, whom he calls Gertrude. In the process he manages to alienate his wife (Amelie) and his 20yr old son (Jacques), and to fall hopelessly in love with his protegee. When Gertrude undergoes an operation which restores her sight, she comes to the terrible realisation that it was not the wrinkly old pastor she loved, but his handsome young son Jacques. In torment she tries to drown herself, and dies a few days later. Was this a story of the blind leading the blind? of none so blind as he who will not see? Was our pastor devious and dishonest, or sincere but misguided? Was Gertrude entirely blameless? Undoubtedly, the conclusions we reach tell us as
much about ourselves and our prejudices as they do about Gide and his fictional characters. A real cracker of a book and a must for any serious reader.
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on 27 December 2000
These two tales together in one volume are a real joy to read. Each is short and sweet with no waste of words. They recount the many dilemmas of being caught up in different kinds of love either forbidden as in La Symphonie Pastoral or fantasised in Isabelle. The first is the tale of a country Priest set in the French part of Switzerland. It tells how he takes into his care an orphaned blind girl, and teaches her about the wonders of God's world through nature and music. The Priest moves between his charitable deeds, love for his wife and family and the beautiful blind girl Gertrude. Time is a very important element within this narrative and something that made the book even more thought provoking. The story ends on a moving tragic note, and it keeps the reader attentive to the final page, as we see the priest's story unfold through his journal. I enjoyed the descriptions of the countryside, which are sparse but beautiful. Isabelle relates another thwarted and inaccessible love, as a young man dreams and visualises love for a woman represented by a photograph he sees at a Chateau where he is researching for a thesis. The family at the Chateau and their relationship to the girl in the photograph are gradually revealed, and the mystery is resolved to the surprise of the young man. Once again this is a first person narrative that reflects the strength of the writing. I highly recommend these novellas as delicately told portraits of affairs of the heart and consequences of falling in love and it's many complications. Both the stories are concerned with the psychology of their narrator. They acknowledge humanity and it's frailties, the fragile tendencies and waywardness of the heart, mind and spirituality of the main protagonists. The reader is able to relate to those involved and become caught up in their emotions. I very much like this when reading a book. However, my favourite of the two is La Symphonie Pastoral because of the depth of the story and its interesting if somewhat complex structure. It is the kind of novella I will always remember and requires re-reading to absorb its many facets and subtleties.
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on 25 January 2001
La Symphonie Pastorale is a beautiful story of a blind and innocent girl who fell in love with her mentor. She finally opens her eyes to see the pain and suffering she has caused. Unforgettable!!!
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on 29 March 2010
Gide's two novellas on unrequited love are ideal companions in this single volume. In style, pace, and in their tragic denouement, the two stories are similar, but the direction of travel in each is very different. La Symphonie Pastorale has the more predictable conclusion, but it is in reaching this that the reader enjoys Gide's skill as a writer. Trapped in a loveless marriage, the narrator, a religious cleric, increasingly acknowledges in his diary the nature of his love for a blind girl he takes into his care. The relationship between him and his son, which Gide uses to explore contrasting attitudes to organised religion, is equally compelling, especially the father's rebuke to his son on pages 52-53. In Isabelle, Gide produces a tense and compelling Gothic love story complete with an old creaking house. Its conclusion is not only sudden, but brutally true about the fragile nature of infatuation.
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on 29 March 2010
Of course, it's Andre Gide, and it's is a gem of a story. I ordered it because I wanted to revisit one of those wonderful books, along with Nausea, Intimacy, Thief's Journal and many, many others that shaped my youth. I have been dying to read it again and re-live my previous joy.
When I ordered it from, there was no indication that "Isabelle", was not included in this edition, and furthermore, that this was indeed a FRENCH LANGUAGE edition! Sacre bleu!!!
O well, I will keep this, and maybe even have a go at trying to read it. But i will certainly be one of the 14 percent who go on to order the Engish translation that does promise to include "Isabelle".
I am giving 5 stars because, 30 years after reading it, I can still remember the emotional and spiritual effect this wonderful story had upon me.
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on 3 February 2012
This was a book club choice, and although always happy to discover new works (new to me) it was not my "cup of tea". The first novella was a very good example of the unreliable narrator, however. The second novella, "Isabelle" seemed rather predictable and generally melodramatic. Even allowing for translation and the historical context it is difficult to see why it is termed a "classic"
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 June 2011
This is a senstive tale of destroying oneself through love and good intention. What made the French so pessimistic? So bitter? It is a mystery and this book embodies it with economy and elegance. In the original, the prose glows in the dark like a firefly.

Warmly recommmended.
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