When I first read the synopsis for this book, I thought it was going to be about Fauns, forest nymphs and other strange creatures. I had visions of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ and ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. It’s not about any of those, but I was happy to discover that it played on the themes of lost childhood. If I were to describe the novel itself, I would say it has a quiet, oriental enchantment that works its way through the pages, creeps up on you, and holds you in its thrall. The novel itself is full of grand romance, of the bitter-sweet tang of childhood and the pains of growing up. Meaulnes the protagonist is a thinly disguised fictional version of Fournier, and the plot a recreation of his magical courtship with his wife characterized here by the mysterious Yvonne.
However for most young readers the language and experiences in the novel can come across as a bit dated. If you enjoy old historical romances, then this is definitely for you. The best moments are the search for the estate. Fournier had a natural knack for metaphors and I can imagine him as the kind of author who drew his inspiration from the well of youth. But having said this, he wasn’t very old when he wrote ‘Le Grand Meulnes’, and it is a shame that he died soon after the publication during the battle on the Meuse in 1914.
I must admit, I did find the beginning a little dry and was about to give up, but once I hit page 60, things became much more interesting. I think this is probably the only flaw in the book: an over-worked stasis. As a reader, I expect the stasis to set the general tone of the book. Normally it is used to introduce characters, settings and what the writer would like to portray as the ‘norm’s of the world he has created. Fournier overdid this a bit, and I found myself waiting around for the action for a tad too long.
Another thing I’d like to touch on is the translation. My copy was a newly translated version by Adam Gopnik, and I found it to be really good. There is often concern when a work needs translation, as something inevitably gets lost in the process. But I am happy to say that this was satisfactory.
I give this 3/5 Stars.
- Le Grand Meaulnes (The Lost Estate) (shelflove.wordpress.com)
- The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (bookatlas.wordpress.com)
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- Around the World in 80 Books: the second leg (thepenguinblog.typepad.com)
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- Street of the week: Fournier Street (onefinestay.com)
- Folger Shakespeare Library Launches Folger Digital Texts with Twelve of Shakespeare’s Best-Known Plays (infodocket.com)