Thursday, July 18, 2013

79. Le Rouge et le Noir

Le Rouge et le Noir
The Red and The Black
Around 500 pages

Hello all!  Hope you didn't think I forgot about you guys.  As frequent readers know, I reread my favorite series every summer, which delayed this post for awhile.   However, we are back on track now and hopefully, I still have some readers.

This is the story of Julien Sorel, a young carpenter's son with Napoleonic ideals.  Unfortunately for Julien, the throne has been restored and the aristocratic are in power once more.  Julien must content himself with elevating himself in a society he despises.  He gets a job as a tutor for Monsieur de Renal and quickly falls in love with his wife.  Oops!  Everything pretty much goes downhill from there.

I have to admit, I had a good time with this one, even though it bordered on absurd.  I would read out loud certain ridiculous passages to my sister, for her entertainment, like when Madame de Renal's friend fainted when Julien said she was respectable or when everyone in the church began weeping because of a beautiful painting.  What a bunch of ninnies.  I have no idea how anything got done.

It was a fun read, even though it is a bit hard for a modern woman to relate to.  For instance, one of Julien's love interests, Mathilde, felt a great rush of love for him when he took a sword off of the wall and threatened to kill her.  She also cut off half of her fair to demonstrate her devotion to him.  Ah, romance.

Putting aside the more, um, melodramatic moments, it is actually an interesting take on French society during that time.  After the revolution, all the rich people seemed to want to pretend it never happened and in order to survive, the lower class had to as well.  Stendhal never lectured, but every once in awhile a subtle hint would be thrown in, like when Julien was forced to destroy his portrait of Napoleon, for fear of it being found by the wrong people.

So a good story but wildly over the top.  Read at your own risk.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Considered a subversive book and subsequently burned in Brazil.

The novel's title refers to the uniforms of the Army and the Church.

UP NEXT: The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.  Bring on the dancing gargoyles.

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