Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Classic’ Category


#Novella Captains Courageous


13. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling by Rudyard Kipling Rudyard Kipling

Finish date: 17 January 2022
Genre: novella
Rating: F

Bad news:
I think this would be one of the most difficult book to teach young readers. Dialogue?
Fergit ut. (forget it) ‘T wuz… (it was…)
They’ll tell that tale again us fer years.
Fwhat’s th good ‘o bodderin’ fwhat…
Ha’af on the taown, and ‘t’ other ha’af blame fool. (awful!)

Bad news: While reading Captains Courageous I had difficulty with the dialogue. Despite my attempt to read the book…while listening to the and audio version the story never appealed to me. Kipling describes the boats, sail, cross-trees, trawl-buoys, rigging
…in excessive nautical detail. Pages and pages of ‘tall tales’ the crew members tell each other …and the ‘sing-alongs’ sounded corny. My only hope was to find some ‘cracker-barrel philosophy’ in the text (somewhere)…that would inspire young readers.

The book is unbalanced: 70% boats, sea conditions, fishing – 20% the crew – 10% Harvey Kipling eventually rejected the novel as simply a “boy’s story” …and he was right. I doubt a young reader would really enjoy this story.
This book was written in 1897 and times….and children have changed.
#NotFavorite childern’s classic…at all!


#BackToTheClassics 2021 – Challenge completed

  • Thanks to Karen @Books and Chocolate
  • for hosting yet again….#BackToTheClassics.
  • Email:


Challenge completed:

  1. 19th C Classic: Iola Leroy – F. E.W. Harper (1892) REVIEW
  2. 20th C Classic: The Ways of White Folks: Stories – Langston Hughes (1934) – REVIEW
  3. Classic by woman: Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel – Z. N. Hurston (1937) REVIEW
  4. Classic in translation: Palace Walk – N. Mahfouz (1956) REVIEW
  5. Classic BIPOC Author: Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison REVIEW
  6. Classic new Author: Hiroshima – John Hersey (1946) REVIEW
  7. Classic favorite Author: Nobody Knows My Name – J.Baldwin (1961) REVIEW
  8. Classic animal in title: La maison de chat qui pelote – Balzac (1830)  REVIEW
  9. Children’s Classic: The House of Dies Drear – Virginia Hamilton (1968) REVIEW
  10. Humorous/Satire Classic: Pour une nuit d’amour by E. Zola (1880) REVIEW
  11. Travel Classic: Voyage au centre de la terre – Jules Verne (1864)  REVIEW
  12. Classic Play: Le bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière (1670) REVIEW

#Play A Doll’s House


  1. This was a very easy play to read.
  2. The dialogue is …
  3. clean, simple, evocative, alive and easily spoken.
  4. In Act III when Nora finally finds her voice she
  5. pummels her husband….who can’t handle the truth!
  6. #MustRead  classic play!
  7. This play is an audience favorite:
  8. Film adaptations with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Jane Fonda and Juliet Stevenson
  9. Stage production is planned June 2020 London with Jessica Chastain.

  1. At the moment a spin-off is on stage in London.
  2. Nora: A Doll’s House –> Young Vic Theatre in London.
  3. Stef Smith’s adaptation of the Ibsen play sends the title character on a time-traveling mission,
  4. exploring how far women’s rights have progressed in the last 100 years.
  5. The play re-frames the drama in three different time periods:
  6. the women’s suffrage movement,
  7. the Swinging ’60s in London, and
  8. present day.
  9. The play was recently named a finalist for the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.

Structure: Three act play:

Act 1: exposition (married life, Christine returns)
Act 2: rising action (Nora’s secret is discovered!)
Act 3: climax and resolution occur simultaneously (Nora…walks out the door with her baggage!).

Well-made play:

  1. This created a sensation in 19th C Royal Theatre Denmark on 21 December 1879!
  2. Ibsen broke with the traditional well-made play  structure.
  3. The well-made play  from 19th C first codified by French dramatist Eugène Scribe
  4. …with 5 equal parts  in 5 acts:  exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.


  1. Problem play…
  2. …character Nora is  in conflict with a social issue or institution ( marriage)
  3. Ibsen presents in A Doll’s House the
  4. treatment of women ( unequal)
  5. particularly the entrapment of women …in marriage
  6. in a very realistic manner.

Timeline: 3 days

  1. The play begins on Christmas Eve and
  2. concludes the day after Christmas… the 26th.

Main characters:

  1. Nora and Torvald (married)
  2. Christine (BFF)
  3. Nils – employee at Torvald’s bank
  4. Dr Rank (family friend)

Quickscan:  (…no spoilers)

  1. — The institution of marriage was sacrosanct in 19TH C
  2. — This play was highly controversial and elicited sharp criticism.
  3. — Nora Helmer gains the reader’s empathy.
  4. Nora’s change: sheltered 19th C child wife….to mature woman who finds her voice
  5. Theme: woman trapped in a patriarchal society (…loveless marriage)
  6. Foils:   Nora —> Christien (friend); Torvard (husband) —> Nils (employee)
  7. Foils:   partners Nora and Tovard —> partners Christine and Nils
  8. Symbol: most important is the Christmas tree —> beautiful, admired, decorated
  9. …parallel with Nora. During the play the tree loses it’s splendour, ornaments as does Nora
  10. …appearing in a bedraggled state.

Contrast relationships:

Nora and Tovald:
NO…communication openly.
NOT honest with each other
NO respect for each other
KEEP secrets (…at least Nora does…)
UNEQUALS – man controles and is above wife
NO true love

Christine and Nils —> exactly the opposite!
YES…communication openly.
YES honest with each other
YES respect for each other
NO kept secrets


#Classic The Lottery



  1. Even thought I knew how the story ended
  2. …I felt a dread.
  3. This horror of the ending  and the even cheery,
  4. …atmosphere of the scene
  5. …small town USA just rattled this reader.
  6. Narrative  style: deadpan, 3rd person
  7. Strong point: unexpected shock of the ending
  8. Tone: calm
  9. Point of the story:  expose how people seize upon a scapegoat
  10. …release the cruelties that people seem to have dammed up within themselves.
  11. Trivia: story is taught in high school for decades
  12. …often referred to as the best-known short story of the 20th century.
  13. #Classic

#Classic The Quiet American

  • Author: Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)
  • Title:  The Quiet American (210 pg)
  • Genre: novel
  • Published: 1955
  • Trivia: 2019 BBC News lists The Quiet American
  • ….as on of the 100 most influential novels
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. This was an excellent book. (reading time: 4 hrs)
  2. I needed to detach myself for one day
  3. from the political turmoil on TV #Election2020 USA.
  4. Novels are a means to escape reality…
  5. yet they describe in ‘fiction’ what many don’t want to acknowledge.
  6. I wanted discover Graham Greene’s view of U.S. foreign policy.
  7. USA –>  ill-advised and ill-informed
  8. …sounds still very relevant in 21st C!
  9. Greene portrays the French/British colonialism and American involvement in the
  10. Vietnam War ….as a love triangle: Fowler – Phoung – Pyle
  11. Central issue: the politics of intervention in a foreign nation.
  12. Strong point:   characters
  13. …Britain (Fowler), America (Pyle), France (Vigot) Vietnam (Phoung)
  14. Fowler:…..repeating “I’m not involved. Not involved.”
  15. Pyle:…naive as he stumbles around Vietnam creating havoc wherever he goes
  16. Inspector Vigot: “We are fighting your (US/UK) wars, but you leave us the guilt”.
  17. Phoung: treated like property, to be passed among different nations.
  18. #MustRead

#Classic Alice Munro Nobel Prize 2013

  • Author: Alice Munro
  • Title:  Runaway (8 stories, 352 pg)
  • Genre: short stories
  • Published: 2004
  • Trivia:  2013 winner Nobel Prize  (first female since 1901)
  • List of Challenges 2020
  • Monthly plan



  1. Good news: Munro develops the characters and
  2. creates the mood with a sense of place: small town Canada.
  3. Bad news: These are NOT short  short stories!
  4. Ms Munro writes short stories exclusively.
  5. Just because these stories are less than novel-length
  6. …does not mean they are simpler.
  7. IMO Ms Munro is a skillful writer, winner of Nobel Prize 2013
  8. …but I did not experience the reading pleasure I hoped for.
  9. Her stories are not intensely compressed and
  10. seem…to be endless.  I lose interest very quickly.
  11. I don’t think I will attempt another Munro collection soon, sorry.
  12. I hightly recommend Amy Witting
  13. ….for some TOP short stories.
  14. She is an Australian writer who you probably never heard of!


What trends did I find in the stories?

  1. Protagonists are all women.
  2. Story is  usually about 4 main characters.
  3. Ms Munro likes to start a story
  4. ….then jump 40 years to the past revealing memories. (Tricks, Passion)
  5. 3 stories form a ‘novella’ (Chance, Soon, Silence) with a 40 yr timeline
  6. The story Powers moves from beginning to end covering 40 years.
  7. 7/8: stories a character dies.
  8. 2/8: stories are coming of age stories (Passion, Tricks)
  9. 6/8: are about marriage
  10. …ties that bind, yet sometimes the ties can chafe – and strangle
  11. 8/8: stories …at the end Munro’s women characters are left alone.
  12. You can feel loneliness even in a marriage!



  2. Ms Munro retains a feeling of complexity and mystery about
  3. The marriage of Carla and her husband.
  4. The greatest reading pleasure is leaving it up
  5. To the reader to decide what is going to happen.
  6. Themes:  freedom
  7. Carla runs away from the marriage
  8. …at the end Carla runs away from the truth!
  9. When will Carla get her revenge?
  10. Ending suggests she will contain her rage….for now.
  11. This was the kick-off story
  12. …the literary ‘amuse’ before
  13. the main course!


Chance – Soon – Silence

  1. Strong point
  2. Munro really knows how to describe
  3. a character, physiology and attire.
  4. She describes people with all their quirks.
  5. Themes:  freedom, faith, elderly parents, distant daughter, where is your HOME?
  6. Strong point: Very powerful ending….a moving stories.
  7. Writing skill: snapshot of  a love affair, family life, parent’s marriage (Soon)
  8. …looking back at the pain (loss of contact with daughter Silence)
  9. …and the pleasure of remembering. (Chance)
  10. I would consider these 3 stories a beautiful novella!
  11. CHANCE – beginning of affair with Eric. BEGINNING
  12. SOON – 13 months later visits mother….she is dying ENDING
  13. SILENCE – daughter cuts off all communication….ISOLATION



  1. Coming of age….flashback
  2. What was Grace really looking for?
  3. Memories of her first feeling of passion….that summer?
  4. 20% dialogue that reveals very little about the people in the story.
  5. 80% POV 3rd person backstory about the characters.
  6. Strong point again….POWERFUL ending.
  7. That is Ms Munro’s trademark.
  8. She knows the last few lines will linger in the reader’s mind
  9. Writing technique: Flashback….40 years ago



  1. 70% dialogue
  2. 30% POV 3rd person
  3. Themes: Children, adoption, misunderstandings, loneliness
  4. Writing technique: frame story
  5. Ms Munro begins at the end and moves into a flashback.
  6. This way she tells how the characters came to be where they are.
  7. The story being drawn out by an eager listener, the teen-age daughter Lauren
  8. demanding the her story from her parents…am I adopted?
  9. Title: says it all….Trespasses = sins



  1. 15% dialogue
  2. 85% POV 3rd person
  3. ….very touching story
  4. starts in the past….then jumps 40 years.
  5. Star-crossed lovers
  6. Robin and Daniel who meet
  7. …for a brief intense moment
  8. …like ships pass in the night.
  9. #Pathos



  1. The last story in the collection is a curious mix of
  2. diary and third-person narration.
  3. with the focus on Nancy,
  4. …an impertinent, egocentric woman
  5. who never seems to understand what is occurring.  (OOPS!)
  6. 2 married couples
  7. whose lives intertwine….but in a sad way.
  8. This was the LONGEST  story
  9. ….and  IMO not very good.
  10. It does not adhere to the basics of a short story.




#Classic Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand



  1. You either LOVE the book or you HATE it.
  2. I can’t state it more simply.
  3. This is crystalline capitalistic philosophy  spun in the
  4. warm cocoon of a novel to make it more digestible.
  5. I continued to soldier on being  pummeled by waves and waves
  6. of soap opera stuff, profound statements and superfluous details.
  7. I read with my cat in front of the fireplace
  8. …and keep falling asleep!
  9. The cat slept as well.


Last thoughts:

  1. Sorry I have to agree with one of my GF Friends ‘Bridget’
  2. and give this book a score of 1!
  3. I read Atlas Shrugged to understand
  4. why a friend of mine liked it so much.
  5. Bad News: I did not like Atlas Shrugged
  6. Good News: We are still friends!
  7. The book is 350 pages too long.
  8. It is unnecessarily padded with character sketches
  9. of some of the politicians, engineers, scientists and activists involved.
  10. A swirl of useless descriptions and
  11. facts makes this book….unbearable.
  12. #ReadAtYourOwnRisk
  13. …I wasted many reading hours.
  14. Chapters are too cynical, too sour, too claustrophobic.
  15. #Bah
  16. Worst book I’ve read in a very long time!
  17. Who wants to hang out with these awful people?



#AusReadingMonth 2019 A Kindness Cup



  1. This book is based on historical fact:
  2. a massacre of a group of Aboriginal people
  3. near Ball Bay Queensland in 19th C (The Leap)
  4. and the police whitewash of the event.


  1. In A Kindness Cup Astely is examning the politics of race
  2. The central character is a bitter teacher, Mr Dorhay,
  3. who returns to the town of The Taws 20 years.
  4. He tried to bring classical education to the unwilling outback students.
  5. Dorahy embodies the rage and frustration
  6. ….Thea Astley was also feeling.
  7. Theme: justice.…or is it revenge?
  8. Chapter 8 pg 74
  9. Boyd: “Why did you come back?”
  10. Dorahy: “Curiosity. That mainly. And a hope of delayed justice.”
  11. Theme: obsession….and the places it takes one (pg 102)
  12. Dorahy vows to see justice served.
  13. Theme: white guilt (suppress stories about events that disturb them)
  14. ch 6 That’s all over now. So long ago no one remembers
    ch 8 Past is past, eh?
    ch 8 I thought you’d (Dorahy) be letting go by now.
    ch 14 “ and let live.”



  1. A Kindness Cup…this was NOT the original title.
  2. Astley had chosen “Come Home People.
  3. I still can’t figure out the REAL meaning of ‘A Kindness Cup’!
  4. I only found two references to the word kind.

Chapter 5  — pg 44

  1. Boyd confronts vigilante group explaining why
  2. the blackfella did their best to help a lost baby….left her
  3. at the home of The Jenners.
  4. “They were being kind to the child in their own way.
  5. Kind.
  6. Are you going to take them to task for that?

Chapter 8 —  pg 72

  1. While Dorahy attends a cocktail party at Sweetman’s home:
  2. “…he sips again and the wine warms him.
  3. There’ll be some kindness, he hopes.



  1. Astley calls the blackfella hunters “10 men of God” (ch 9)
  2. A man of God was a title of respect in the Bible
  3. This vigilante group is anything but respectful
  4. …they are bloodthirsty racsists.


Characterization….with a ‘Catholic’ twist:

  1. Sweetman: “…smiles like a Messiah (pg 176)
  2. Dorahy: “he is persistant …like an avenging angel”  (pg 162)
  3. Lunt:  “It is difficult not to make Lunt look like a sacrificial lamb.” (pg 141)


Strong point – personification summer crouches

  1. The house skulks (lie in hiding)
  2. Heat dealing blow upon blow
  3. Sunlight eating through sinew and bone towards the soul…
  4. Bracken dragged at their boots an argued with them
  5. The sun clouts the side of his head (Dorahy) for the lie
  6. plague of sunlight that threatens to beat him senseless
  7. Mid-morning knocks on his sunny door….
  8. He feels the bite of northern light…
  9. The heat does not lick but rasp.


Strong point: Novel is interactive!

  1. Thea Astley is known to fill novels with Latin
  2. quotes and Mr Dorhay contines the tradition.
  3. Latin phrases are little riddles.
  4. It is fun to pauze and look up the translation
  5. …trying to link it to the narrative.
  6. Noli tageres – touch not (pg 27)
  7. Vivamus atque amenus – let us live, let us love (pg 59)
  8. Domine non sum dignus – Lord, I am not worthy. (pg 76)
  9. Eheu, fugaces Labuntur anni... – Alas, the fleeting years slip by (pg 134)


QUOTE with IMPACT  – chapter 1  pg 18

  1. Mr Buckmaster: (You’d be) First to squawk if a
  2. …party of them (blackfellas) raped you.
  3. Wife: “I’ve never squawked at rape.”
  4. There was a frightful silence.


QUOTE with IMPACT  Chapter 6 — pg 60

  1. Sweetman: “Why did you come back?
  2. ”Not in the spirit of criticism .
  3. That’s all over now. So long ago no one remembers.
  4. Dorahy: “I remember”
  5. Sweetman: “You WON’t forget, you mean.
  6. Are growing pains all the things you recall, eh?”
  7. Dorahy: “Is that how you dismiss it (massacre)? Growing pains?


Quickscan structure of the book:

  1. If you read the book
  2. …this may help you because Astely subtly
  3. switches back and forth  past and present.
  4. Sometimes it took me a while
  5. …to figure out where I was on the timeline!


(ch 1) PRESENT + multiple flashbacks to 20 yrs ago (Mr Dorahy’s home)
(ch 2) PRESENT Mr Dorahy …boat trip to ‘Back to The Taws Reunion” +
flashback to court scene investigating the ‘black hunt” led by Buckmaster sr.
— intro character Charlie Lunt
(ch 3) PAST 20 years ago – intro characters:
—Gracie, Jenner, Buckmaster jr, S. Boyd, Sweetman
(ch 4) PAST  (courtroom)
(ch 5) PAST (meeting vigilante group)
(ch 6) PRESENT hotel lobby, Dorahy meets Sweetman after many years
(ch 7) PAST (courtroom) + Dorahy visits Charlie Lunt’s shack
(ch 8) PRESENT Mr D arrives at Sweetman’s house for drinks
(ch 9) PAST —massacre 7 aborigines — first plot twist
(ch 10) PRESENT – Dorahy asks Boyd to take him to Charlie Lunt
(ch 11) PRESENT drinks at Sea Rip Hotel Bar
(ch 12) PRESENT trip to see Charlie Lunt, ask him to the reunion
(ch 13) PRESENT —“How many did you sacrifice?”
—D confronts Sweetman at reunion hall. Audience is shocked — second plot twist
(14) PRESENT reunion hall + next day a tense atmosphere in hotel breakfast room
(15) PRESENT Dorahy visits old school (taught classics, Gallic Wars, Pliny, Livy)
— then goe to the hotel meets Boyd, asks him for a  favour  (..tension)
(ch 16) PRESENT Dorahy visits Boyd in his newspaper office …then to hotel for tea
(ch 17) PAST (courtroom) + PRESENT Boyd is in newspaper office…talk with print setter
(ch 18) PRESENT Boyd finally finishes doing the favour Dorahy asked him for
(ch 19) PRESENT third plot twist no spoilers
(ch 20) PRESENT Boyd and Gracie meet at the hotel
(ch 21) PRESENT last night of the “Back to The Taws Reunion
CLIMAXno spoilers …..the end


Last Thoughts:

  1. Thea Astley is a brilliant writer.
  2. I learn new words, expressions in every book!
  3. This is Astely’s first historical fiction.
  4. A Kindness Cup is the first of 3 novels
  5. highlighting the injustice to the Aborigines.
  6. Personally, I thought A Kindness Cup not as good
  7. as Astley’s social satire novels:
  8. The Slow Natives and
  9. A Boat Load of Home Folk
  10. …both books were much better.
  11. Also there were NO REALLY strong female
  12. characters in A Kindness Cup.
  13. A ‘beyond her prime’, fading opera singer Gracie
  14. just did not match up to characters like
  15. Sister Matthew…
  16. Miss Trumper and Miss Paradise.
  17. Still it was a good read…but not Astley’s best.









#RIPXIV: E.A. Poe Imp of the Perverse

Author:  Edgar Allan Poe
Genre: short story in the horror genre
Title:  The Imp of  the Perverse
Published:  July 1845  in Graham’s Magazine
Length of story:  4 pages [16 paragraphs]
Published by  Penguin Books
Setting: 1830-1840’s in prison cell, narrator tells his story…how he got on death row
Theme:  an impulse forcing people to act irrationally




• The Imp of  the Perverse is a  short story that begins as an essay.
• It discusses the  narrator’s self-destructive impulses, embodied as  The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.
• Many of Poe’s characters display a failure to resist The Imp of  the Perverse.
• Murder in The Black Cat
• Narrator in Tell Tale Heart
• The opposite  is displayed in the character  C. Auguste Dupin.
• He exhibits reason and deep analysis.


• Part 1 Is written in essay style mentioning subjects
• in philosophical terms (primum mobile, à posteriori) ), logic (phrenology) and mysticism (Kabbala)
• Poe cleverly reveals the ‘narrator’s own ‘imp’ by being so wordy!
• The narrator admits he has always wanted to anger the listener (reader) with confusing language.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing….”
• “I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” (pg 281)
• Part 2 contains the narrators story….
• He inherits an estate after murdering its owner.
• He ends up on death row after a perverse impulse causes him to confess the murder.


• The Narrator: An apparently demented man who appears intelligent and well educated.
• The Listener:  Unnamed person listening to the narrator’s story.
• Madame Pilau: Woman who died after inhaling the smoke from an accidentally poisoned candle.
• The Murder Victim: Unnamed person whose property passed to the narrator.
• Pedestrians:  People who witness the narrator’s confession.


Style:  first person point-of-view with an unreliable narrator
• Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
• misunderstood me altogether or […] fancied me mad. (pg 283)


Symbols:   Imp
• This is a spirit that tempts a person to do things….they would normally not do.
• Poe explains that the  ‘imp’  is an impulse in each person’s mind.


• Alliteration:  laconic and luminous language (pg 281)
• Climax: Poe uses a climax words that are arranged  to increase their importance.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing ( to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker and in defiance of all consequences) in indulged.” (pg 282)


Voice of Poe:
• Poe states we use the word ‘perverse’ without really knowing what is means.
• Perverse = headstrong, obstinate, contradictory
• Poe is a master when it comes to entering human thoughts.
• He describes how we ‘put off until tomorrow that we could do today’ because we are perverse.
• With each passing day the anxiety grows.
• I do exactly what Poe describes…
• when I have to make an appointment for the dentist!
• “The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare.” (pg 282)


Voice of Poe:
• In  paragraph 6  we read one of the famous lines:
• “ We stand upon the brink of a precipice.”
• Poe describes the uncontrollable urge to jump.
• I could only think of the Austrian, Felix Baumgartner.
• In 2012 he stood who on the ‘precipice’ of space before making his famous skydive from the stratosphere!
• Goosebumps!


• This is one of Poe’s  lesser known works.
• I expected great writing and got loopy sentences going on and on about nothing!
• After further reading I realized this was Poe’s intention….to irritate the reader!
• The story just kept getting better and better.
Weak point:  the first 4 paragraphs are difficult to get through.
• This almost deterred and discouraged me…but I did not stop!
Strong point: the story in itself is ‘perverse’ .
• Poe deliberately  uses confusing writing and structure to irritate the reader.
• A writer usually wants to please the reader!
• Poe preforms this “perverse” act that defies logic and reason.


Last thoughts:
• I thought I would just breeze through 4 pages of The Imp of the Perverse.
• How wrong I was.
• I have read each and every word in this story…twice!!
• That is an accomplishment in itself.
• Below is a summation of each paragraph.
• Read it ….or read the story first ……your choice.
• I was surprised by the style, structure and  plot.
• Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe are works of art….
• …and deserve a high score.


#Paris In July “Le Grand Meaulnes”

Author: Alain-Fournier (1886 – 1914)
Title: Le Grand Meaulnes
Published: 1913
Contents: 200 pages (3 parts)
Language: French
Trivia: Le Grand Meaulnes was shortlisted for Prix Goncourt 1913 but lost by 1 vote.
Trivia: Today the book is nr 9 on Le Monde’s list 100 best books of 20th C.
Trivia: …and the Prix Goncourt winner “Le peuple de la mer’ has been long forgotten!

Available in English  “The Lost Estate”


  1. Le Grand Meaulnes is the only novel by French author Alain-Fournier.
  2. Fifteen-year-old François Seurel narrates the story of
  3. his relationship with seventeen-year-old Augustin Meaulnes
  4. as Meaulnes searches for his lost love.
  5. Impulsive, reckless and heroic,
  6. Meaulnes embodies the romantic ideal,
  7. the search for the unobtainable, and
  8. the mysterious world between childhood and adulthood.



1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
Augustin Meaulnes, called ‘Le Grand Meaulnes’ fascinates the students with his mysterious personality.

2. What is the predominant element in the story?
Setting: (estate) The setting is the central focus of the book . The village of Sologne and its school, the mysterious ‘domain’/chateau with the surrounding paths , ponds, slopes, reeds, marshes. The characters are running away from the village school (Augustin), running away from the ‘domaine’ (Frantz), running away from village where young Yvonne waits for her new husband (Augustin).

3. Who is the single main character about. whom the story centers?
Main character is Augstin Meaulnes.
There are friendships: Augustin/François and Augustin/Frantz
There are loves: Augustin/Yvonne – Frantz/Valentine – François/Yvonne

4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a. External – Augustin discovers an ‘enchanted forest’ meets a ‘princess’ (Yvonne). They part abruptly.
b. Internal – Augustin moves from childhood to adulthood, but never stops looking for his vanished beloved.

5. How is the conflict resolved?
Frantz: finds his ‘amour absolu’ (Valentine)
Augustin: finds his ‘amour libertine’ (Valentine) and ‘amour idéal’ (Yvonne)
François: finds his ‘amour impossilble’ (Yvonne)

7. Who tells the story? What point of view is used?
François is the narrator of the book. His parents are the teachers at Sainte Agathe in Sologne.

8. Where does the primary action take place?
Village of Sologne, Vierzon, Vieux-Nancay

9. How much time does the story cover?
I estimate that the story takes place over 10 years. It begins when Augustin arrives as a boarder with the Seruel family in Sologne. It ends as Augustin returns from a long trip.jaar.

10. How does the story get started? What is the initial incident?
Augustin arrives at the school. His arrival is going to change François’s calm and lonely life.

11. Briefly describe the rising action:
Augustin loses his way during a walk, discovers a beautiful estate, pre-wedding party and the love of his life.

12. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?
The writer uses language to indicate that Meaulnes and the ‘bohémien’ finally trust each other: (pg 92)

“Puis cessant d’ employer ce <vous> insolite chez des écoliers de Sainte-Agathe.”
Stop using ‘vous’ …unusual for students

The writer uses a mini-climax at the end of each part to move the story along. Part 1 gunshot in the forest; Part 2 letter from Augustin to François. The main climax in on page 104-105.
The illusions and pantomime disappear. Frantz removes the scarf. We see the scare of his attempted suicide. The tone in the book swings from an enchanted world of youth to harsh word of adulthood. “…enlève son bandeau pour être reonnu de nous.”

13. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.
François, Augustin and Frantz try to put the pieces of their ‘past youth and lost loves’ back together ‘…perhaps everything will be as in earlier times. Can the past return? Who knows! (Mais le passé peut-il renaítre? Qui sait!) (pg 159)

14. Does this story create any special mood?
Alain-Fournier creates through his atmospheric images a feeling of:
nostalgia: – tormented and cherished days ebb and flow against the rocks like waves, our adventures. (pg 11)
eeriness: – you hear the whistles and moans of the shipwrecked in the attic. (pg 164); “un vent noir et glacé soufflait dan le jardin mort” (pg 36)
enchantment: – I’m looking for something very mysterious. This passageway mentioned in books, the ancient hidden path, the one the exhausted prince was too tired to find. (pg111) (..famous quote from the book)

15. Is this story realistic or true to life?
We know that Alain-Fournier grew up far from the sea but had a life long desire to join the navy. The sea was his ideal and he used many nautical images in the book. Mysteriously he changed the little houses in the village of Sologne into ships, boats and sails. On page 57 the author describes men at the festive meal, freshly shaven who could have been ex-sailors. But he tells us they never sailed the seven seas…..only weathered rains and wind while making furrows in the fields and returning home in their carts. These are only a few nautical descriptions of the villages and people where the story takes place.

Yvonne de Quiévrecourt was born in 1885 in Paris.
In 1905 Alain Fournier was suddenly faced with the girl of his dreams.
This encounter changed Fournier’s life and provided the basis for Le Grand Meaulnes.

16. What is the structure of the book?
Part 1: (30%) Meaulnes’s arrival and departure in the village Solonge + strange adventure.
Part 2: (22%) Gypsy ‘Frantz’ – Meaulnes’s departure for Paris
Part 3: ( 37%) Wedding – Journal intime – lost happiness
The last chapter which reveals the intrigue, secret and its impact is only 3 pages!

17. What is the general theme of the story?
Adventure and discovery: Meaulnes and Yvonne after their wedding are ready to set out on an adventure. Like two passengers adrift in a boat (nautical image), in the winter wind, two lovers enclosed in happiness. (pg 170)
“Comme deux passagers dans un bateau à la dérive, ils sont dans le grand vent d’hivier, deux amants enfermés avec le bonheur.”

18. Did you identify with any of the characters?
François Seurel: Despite his unwavering loyalty to Augustin, his support of the abandoned Yvonne, his care of a nameless young child….he is left with nothing at the end. In ch1 we read of François’s sad and lonely days in the village. Augustin came and brightened his life. But after losing his best friend and the girl he had secretly fallen in love with (Yvonne) his days were again…sad and lonely.

19. Does this story contain any of the following elements?

Metaphor: sea, boats, sails, anchors, waves used to enhance the theme of an ‘adventure’.
The classroom is like a ship. (pg 23)
The village houses are boats anchored with their sails ready to be unfurled. (pg 142)
Symbol: Meaulnes is Robinson Crusoe on the brink of an adventure.
“Peut-être le gout des aventures plus fort que tout…” (pg 183)
The taste for adventure….stronger than everything.
Meaulnes reminds his young friend of Crusoe in the basket shop. (pg 22)
The title of ch 3 part 1 is a quote from Robinson Crusoe:
“Je fréquentais la boutique d’un cannier” .
Simile: Meaulnes is like a sailor keeping watch at night. (pg 36)
“comme ces marins qui n’ont pas pu se déhabituer defaire le quart…”
He is like a soldier on alert sleeping in his clothes. (pg 35)
“soldat au cantonnement d’ alerte”
All these actions increase the adventurous feeling of the book.

20. Does the story contain a single effect or impression for the reader?
Sadness: François is carrying Yvonne’s dead body. The only time he held her in his arms as the bridegroom he longed to be. “ Je baisse la tête sur la tête de celle que j’emporte, je respire fortement et ses cheveux blonds aspirés m’entrent dans la bouche, ces cheveux morts qui not un goût de terre.”

I lowered my head onto the head of the one I was carrying,
I breathed deeply and inhaled her blond hairs into my mouth,
these dead hairs that have a taste of the earth.


This book is more about rich images than tense action.
Because of author’s poetic style the words seem to float over the pages.
Weak point: part 2 the pantomime, band of roaming gypises….
This was diffcult to place in the narrative. I needed some help to understand why
Alain-Fournier included it. It is a mise-en-abyme, (frame story).
Pierrot struggling to grow up. (keeps falling and speaking in cries and hoots).
This parallels the struggle of the three main characters
…Francois, Augustin and Frantz – moving from youth to adulthood.
This is a very easy book to read, vocabulary is not difficult.
Strong point: I learned some beautiful words and wonderful expressions!
à la cornette! – a mock directed to a nun in reference to her headgear!