The Adventures of Caleb Williams
Things As They Are
Around 450 pages
I had to take a break from doing these in order after the train wreck that was Justine. To become well again, I read The Bell Jar and A Farewell To Arms. Both were excellent. Now I am back with Caleb Williams which was merely mediocre.
Let me start by saying this was a really good idea for a novel. The premise is that Caleb Williams begins working for a man named Falkland and soon realized that he is a murderer. We get some interesting background into Falkland's history and then proceed with the present. Falkland finds out that Caleb knows and vows to make his life a living hell. Which he promptly does.
So far so good. Actually, it kinds of sounds like an action movie. Caleb is framed, forced to clear his name, and get revenge on his persecutor. Unfortunately, it doesn't play out like that at all. First off, Caleb is a really whiny character. In fact, the first line of the novel goes something like this: "my life has been a theater of calamities." Now, of course, if what happened to him happened to me, I would be whining too. Still, it is not fun to have a hero just sit around moping. In fact, that is really what he does the entire book. I will adhere to my promise that I do not spoil but let me just say that once you read the ending, you feel really gypped. I mean, I expected major ass kicking. He even says that he exists as a "guardian of my honor". Well, you suck as a guard, Caleb.
There. Now that I have bagged on this enough, let's get to the good parts. Godwin does manage to slip in some biting social commentary, especially on the legal system. He also manages to slip in some Jew slurs. Damn, I am saying the bad things again. What else was good about this? Let's see...
All right, I got nothing else. Good idea, poor follow through.
Godwin chose to publish this novel the same day that the Prime Minister suspended habeas corpus.
Most critics at the time thought he was praising anarchy and attacking the social order.