Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Shadow-Line

Title: The Shadow Line: A confession

Author: Joseph Conrad

Number of pages: 160

Started: 14 June 2009

Finished: 16 June 2009

Opening words:

Only the young have such moments. I don't mean the very young. No. The very young have, properly speaking, no moments. It is the privilege of early youth to live in advance of its days in all the beautiful continuity of hope which knows no pauses and no introspection.

One closes behind one the little gate of mere boyishness-and enters an enchanted garden. Its very shades glow with promise. Every turn of the path has its seduction. And it isn't because it is an undiscovered country. One knows well enough that all mankind had streamed that way. It is the charm of universal experience from which one expects an uncommon or personal sensation-a bit of one's own.

The whole book is available for free download here.

Plot summary:

A young and inexperienced sea captain finds that his first command leaves him with a ship stranded in tropical seas and a crew smitten with fever. As he wrestles with his conscience and with the increasing sense of isolation that he experiences, the captain crosses the “shadow-line” between youth and adulthood. In many ways an autobiographical narrative, Conrad's novella was written at the start of the Great War when his son Borys was at the Western Front, and can be seen as an attempt to open humanity’s eyes to the qualities needed to face evil and destruction.

What I thought:

I am just not a fan of Joseph Conrad. I found this book very tedious and it was a real slog to get through it. I thought his sentence structure and general writing style was a bit obscure and it meant the book didn’t flow very well. The majority of the book is actually a massive introduction and notes explaining some of the text, so it was only about 100 pages long, but it felt like it was much longer.

I have previously read “Heart of Darkness” and didn’t like that either, so perhaps Mr Conrad is just not for me. This probably shows I have no discernment at all, but I shall just have to live with that.


Sarah said...

Oh no. Heart of Darkness is on my must-read list for this year. And I have to admit that on several occasions I have picked it up... and put it down again. Your review, although wonderfully honest, is not precisely encouraging!

On a note of simple curiousity, I was surprised to see Herman Melville's Billy Budd on the book jacket. (How I picture him, anyway.) I guess there just aren't enough sea-faring pictures to go around.

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - Oh no. Sorry! I hope I haven't put you off too much. In its defence, I read Heart of Darkness many, many years ago and probably was not of an age to really have a clue what it was about. I know people who have read it and really liked it.

I suspect there are indeed a very limited number of sea-faring pictures and even more so of ones that publishers might be able to use on the cheap. I'm not sure that image is particularly reminiscent of the story.

Kahless said...

I was looking at your archive index and saw that you have read 98 books in the last 18 months at a run-rate of 5.44 books a month.

Yet the last couple of months only 4 books a piece......?

Kahless said...

And dont laugh but I am starting to read this....!

Random Reflections said...

Kahless - I am sorry for my recent under-performance. I should finish the book I am currently reading (The Name of the Rose) over the weekend. That is a long book and has taken me a while to get through. I had noticed that I wasn't reading as many books and plan to rectify this. I haven;t really enjoyed the last few books I have read, so I think I read them more slowly, as they were a bit of a chore.

I actually have a copy of The Rules of Management from the library at the moment and G has just read The Rules of Work and I really want to read The Rules of Life and was planning on tracking a copy down. I really want to know what he thinks are the rules and to see how they fit with my own not very well thought out thoughts on this. So, a good choice Kahless!

sarah said...

Don't worry, regarding Heart of Darkness. Could be a case of "any excuse..."

Interesting though, to revisit books read at an earlier age. Wuthering Heights and Madame Bovary are both examples of books I liked better when older. I wonder about Anna Karenina, and Catcher in the Rye. Would I like them now?

Random Reflections said...

Sarah - I read The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager and loved it, but I also wonder if I would like it now. I have a copy of it, so perhaps I should give it a go.

I normally avoid re-reading books. This is mainly because there are so many other books to read, but also because if I really loved a book, it might not be quite so great next time around.