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Publisher's Summary

Young Julien Sorel, the son of a country timber merchant, carries a portrait of his hero, Napoleon Bonaparte, and dreams of military glory. A brilliant career in the Church leads him into Parisian high society, where, "mounted upon the finest horse in Alsace", he gains high military office and wins the heart of the aristocratic Mlle Mathilde de la Mole. Julien's cunning and ambition lead him into all sorts of scrapes, but it is the struggle between his passion for two beautiful women - the quixotic Mathilde and the loyal Mme de Rênal - which ultimately decides his destiny.

Public Domain (P)2010 Naxos Audiobooks

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  • Chrissie
  • 2014-08-30

Slow and wordy

No, I did not like this book. I disliked the intertwining of its two central themes, one being a criticism of French Bourbon society after the fall of Napoleon and the crazy, unbelievable love affairs. The writing becomes more and more absurd the further you progress into the novel. The language is old-fashioned, formal, complicated and wordy. I was bugged to no end by the excessive use of etcetera and etcetera over and over again. Perhaps that was a translation problem? I am not sure.

The book is extremely slow, even if it does pick speed as it nears the end only to fall again to turtle velocity at the conclusion.

This is a book of satire and by the end the author's "message" has been pounded into you. Events become absurdly ridiculous. I preferred the more subtle humor at the beginning. The question is - did I ever really laugh? No.

I must repeat my earlier statement found below: if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters, why are my feelings toward Julien, the main character, only lukewarm?

The famed actor Bill Homewood narrated the audiobook I listened to. The French pronunciation was fine but I disliked his added dramatics, even if perhaps he was merely exaggerating what the author intended to be exaggerated.

So I did not enjoy the humor, or the wordy writing, or the incredible romances. I will neither be listening to Homewood again nor reading more books by Stendhal.


Two-thirds through the audiobook:

This is v-e-r-y slow.

Be prepared for a multitude of pontificating old men.

The language is old-fashioned and formal; it was written in 1830 and is concerned with the upper-classes of French society after the defeat of Napoleon.

What is important above all else is your class. Will Julien Sorel be able to escape his class? He is intelligent. He is ambitious.

And then there are scandalous love affairs....involving not only Julien but an older woman who really ought to know better because she at least has the experience of age! More importantly, the author's lines do not make me feel either Julien's or her passion.

I do not empathize with any character. I do not dislike Julien, but I dislike what he is aspiring to. In addition, if this is a book that is supposed to offer a psychological study of characters why are my feelings toward Julien only lukewarm?

I am not done, and I will continue, but.....

Keep in mind when you look at the rating that MANY people close the book before completion and thus do not rate it.

7 of 27 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Bill Lohmeyer
  • 2018-01-22


I read this book as assigned reading for a literature class. I finished reading it. I do not know why. Until the teacher explains that to me, my conjecture is that this helps understand the development of novel writing. I cannot think of any other possible reason to read it in 2018. Perhaps my evaluation says more about me than it does about the book.

2 of 13 people found this review helpful