What I’m Reading: Scarlet and Black
October 29, 2012 Leave a comment
So recently I just finished reading Scarlet and Black by Stendhal. The book is a French classic following the adventures in the life of Julien Sorel. The reason I picked this book up is because I was really interested in the conflict of interests in the main character, which provides most of the meat (at least morally) in the story.
Sorel is a gifted young farmhand living an anonymous existence in rural France, happy enough to learn the bible verbatim in Latin but not much else. However, after a turn of events Julien gets an opportunity to work for a privileged family through which he is catapulted on an exciting and varied adventure in which he falls in love, breaks hearts makes powerful friends and enemies but all the while wrestling with himself between his alliance with the Church, or whether to pursue a career (if possible) in the military.
Stendhal illustrates the imbalance of Sorel’s mind expertly mainly through visualising the grandeur of either lifestyle whilst portraying his subtler, more subjective thoughts through his vivacious love life.
Scarlet and Black was a fairly challenging to read and it works in a huge amount of detail whilst telling an epic, important story. I loved the opportunity to read about 19th century France and learn something of the people in that era, especially the cultural elite.
I would recommend Scarlet and Black to anyone up for reading a classic that may not be on everyone’s list. If you’ve read the book or have any questions about it, please leave a comment below.