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3.7 out of 5 stars
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3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 23 September 2015
There is so much irreverent humour in this book and so much of the ridiculous that it's almost like a precursor to Monty Python. Yorick, (The sentimental traveller) sets off on his journey to France in a fit of pique, after taking offence at the offhand remark of one of his acquaintances. It only occurs to him after the fact that (a) he does not have a passport and (b) Britain and France are at war, which might render travel difficult for him. But Yorick is not cast down for long - via a method of flattery and making love to any lady he happens across, he manages to get across France (although in a very Sterne-ian moment, the traveller on this "Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy" never actually quite makes it to the second country in the title). I LOVED the bit with the Monk begging for alms, who he stubbornly resolves not to give anything to (and the embarrassment this later causes him when he's trying to impress a beautiful French woman). Despite the 18th century prose and many biblical and classical allusions in this text, which can make it a little difficult at times, there is so much humour, that I was laughing out loud. Using the language of Radcliffe's Udolpho, Yorick's strange and surreal travels are definitely worth a look for fans of the 18th century.
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on 5 November 2004
Even for modern readers, "A Sentimental Journey" (published 1768)is as startlingly innovative as Sterne's celebrated "Tristram Shandy". Sterne's ability to crystallize the minute details of experience - which may be down to a few seconds only - is reminiscent of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse". Indeed, Woolf admired this book.
This is by no means an easy read. The 18th-century prose is difficult; the book is larded with Frenchisms and Biblical or classical allusions; the complex, slow narrative often requires re-reading. But the rewards are great! It's wise, deeply comical, and incredibly perceptive.
There are several helpful reviews below dealing with the aspect of "sentimentality", and so I will just single out two things which appealed to me:
1. STERNE AND BODY LANGUAGE. Sterne shows an almost 20th-century appreciation of body language. In fact, I believe he may have almost discovered it. His chapter, "The Translation", highlights the importance of being able to interpret subtle physical hints, like a language: "There is not a secret so aiding to the progress of sociality, as to get master of this _shorthand_, and be quick in rendering the several turns of looks and limbs, with all their inflections and delineations, into plain words." How visionary!
2. STERNE AND THE FRENCH. Ever since Shakespeare inserted a scene in "cod French" into "Henry V", actually ever since the Norman Conquest and up to Monty Python and beyond, the English have revelled in mocking the French and their language. His Continental travelling gives Sterne the perfect excuse to do this. At one point he differentiates between "tant pis" (= "never mind" - where there is nothing to be gained) and "tant mieux" (= so much the better - where there IS an advantage). He also has a hilarious section on the grades of French swearing: first "Diable!", then "Peste!" and finally the words that he won't repeat. In all cases, Sterne carefully shows the social niceties of these expressions.
The protagonist, Yorick, has various adventures of lust and feeling with women and other typically travelish things like losing his passport that we can all relate to. He's tender, obscene, learned, funny, companionable, and above all, readable - if tough.
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on 20 March 2002
Yes, thats right, this is a very short book and for me thats a great part of its appeal. It meant I could get a flavour of Sterne's work very quickly for that essay I had to write!
Seriously though, this book is well worth reading for a number of other reasons. It's seemingly quirky set of brief "episodes" recounting the experiences of a traveller in Europe are on one level deep and telling signs of Sterne's fascination with the trivial (which in one sense all our lives are.) On another, it's just a very enlightening insight into the times it is a product.
One important point: don't be mislead/put off by the title. It's not really all weepy, over-inflated and sentimental twaddle; instead it is a novel that reads more like a pre-echo of Joyce and other modernists.
For the price, its length and the chance to read something a bit off the beaten track of literature you could do much worse then this little gem.
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on 25 December 2014
For lovers of irreverent humour - read and devour this gem. The final joke may take some translating, but by god its worth it.
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on 3 August 2011
Required reading for a course of Travelling Literature, I had to force myself to read large parts of this book. It was a real struggle, as I greatly disliked the haughty, sleazy little prick that does the travelling. I did not care one bit for his observations or his take on what he observed. I know it's supposed to be funny, a sarcastic twist on the journey of a well known sourpuss, but I just cannot see what's funny about it, even with a considerable amount of goodwill. I was so glad when I could put this book down for good, and plan on never ever reading the rest of it!
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on 24 April 2016
Not for me
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on 3 September 2014
Good book.
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on 30 September 2014
Its worth a lot more stars than 3 but on rereading after 50 years i have even less time and patience to persevere.
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on 18 April 2011
Bought this as a set text for my degree course, it was delivered quickly and in perfect condition - just knocked a star off because I wasn't keen on the text itself!
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