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Book Challenges: 50 Books A Year (no.2), 1001 BYMRBYD (no. 957)A beautiful and tragic novella written by the master wordsmith Goethe about forbidden love. Told in a series of letters this is the story of one young man’s struggle against the dilemma that torments him. Werther, a German painter who epitomises the often too-sensitive temperament of the Romantics, is the unfortunate hero who falls for the beautiful and vivacious Lotte.

The Sorrows of Young Werther

Does true love exist?
Do you only find your soulmate once in a lifetime?
Has anyone ever died from love?

The story itself is simple enough, but it is the varying degrees of pain that comes with rejection that Goethe so masterfully explores in this slim study of human depression. The opening scenes of the story with it’s sweeping, detailed landscapes exude the highest philosophical ideals of the time and offers an excellent insight into the workings of the Romantic mind. The beauty of nature-worship seems to occupy every facet of the story, and becomes the ultimate initiator for the series of events to come.
The descriptions are, as you can imagine, very beautifully lyrical. Goethe seems to have put a lot of himself into this novella, and it shows with its candid and often naked approach to the turmoils of heartache. To love and to have lost someone to death is one thing. To love and to have the beloved betray your love is quite something else. But to love and to know that you can never consummate it, to distance yourself from the very thing you draw life from is unbearable for Werther.
As he slowly descends deeper and deeper into melancholy, the reader also follows him into territories they possibly have never been to. The descent is gradual, but the ending nevertheless still has an element of sadness and shock, as we realise that Werther was an ordinary person, just like us, had a bright future ahead of him with everything to live for. Highly recommended as a good quick read, that has none of the heavy language that comes with a book of its type. This is a cornerstone of Romantic literature that inspired many poets and should be a key text for anyone studying the genre. Perfect for a summer read, but note: not recommended to those who have recently gone through a rather painful break-up.
I give this 3/5 stars.