Sunday, January 31, 2010

Heart of Darkness

This week, at the recommendation of an English major, I decided to read Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.  When I was in high school, I am pretty sure I was supposed to read it.  I am pretty sure I didn't.  There is something about age and maturity that illuminates the things your English teachers were trying to teach you while you were too busy with the important things of life like passing notes to the cute boy three rows over and when the bell was going to ring.  Apparently, I am have not yet gained enough of this age and maturity because I had a difficult time getting through this 70 page novel this week.  I was interested in almost everything else but Conrad's characters and plot development.  Don't get me wrong, I made it through (somehow); but the problem was I didn't find it fascinating.  I saw the things my English teacher wanted me to see back then: tone, character development, social commentary, structure, etc.  But what I didn't see was a page-turner.   I think that is what I am looking for.  I need something to get me through the week, that makes me push through my day so that I can finish with a great story.  What I do not need is the middle section of Heart of Darkness.  I would have preferred to read the beginning and end and have the middle summarized for me.  There were some great early quotes forshadowing what was to come and there was the key repeated phrase of heart of darkness (in case I forgot what I was reading), but those were in the bookends of the novel.  Is there a way to get Cliff's Notes for just the middle section?
There is one good thring to be said for reading this book.  There is a book called 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die and at the beginning of this week, I had read exactly 1 percent of the books included in it.  At the close of this week I have read 1.2 percent of the books - what an accomplishment!! 
Rating: 3


  1. I was laughing so hard when I read this review. The three weeks I spent on Conrad's "Lord Jim" were among the longest of my life, for the very same reasons you elucidated. No plot, long winded, of no interest. I almost cried to see I'll have to not only get through Heart of Darkness eventually, but I think there's another Conrad on the ML list further up. Yuck!

    I also agree that age and experience affect how you experience a book. Which is why even though I read "Catcher in the Rye" and "The Age of Innocence" about three times apiece in high school and college, I plan to read them again when it's their turn on the list. Something about finishing school, getting married, having kids and a job and a mortgage give you a new perspective on life!!!

    I am also jealous you and your husband are avid readers. Mine made it through the entire John Grisham catalogue and then gave up. :)

    Great blog!

  2. My first time reading Heart of Darkness was horrible. I thought it was so boring and nothing hardly happened. My second read, for a class, was only slightly better. But my third read, for another class, was so incredible that Heart of Darkness is now one of my favorites. Conrad was a genius. Marlow is a classic unreliable narrator and I enjoyed constantly questioning everything he says. And the fact that he ISN'T the narrator is often missed and adds another dimension to how the story (of colonialism) is told - which is a huge part of what the book's about. I'm glad you forged your way through it. It's a think little novella.