Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.
For a while now I’ve been on the hunt for a book to refresh and feed my knowledge on the history of literature. I’ve been taught this obviously in school, but that’s a long time ago. So far, nothing quite delivered. Either it was too vague and superficial to teach me anything new, or it was way too detailed and felt like something I would actually have to study.
This book balances very nicely in between the two: I felt it gave me all the information I wanted to, without leaving me exhausted or with a head-ache.
The scope of the book is quite good: it takes you from ancient myths and dramas, to medieval tales, all the way to current literature. In general, it is rather focused on Anglo-Saxon literature, but still covers the great French Fin de Siècle authors like Baudelaire and Proust, and the Latin-American magical realists like Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The passion and knowledge of the author on this topic is very obvious. As a child, I had a music teacher who at the end of every ‘official’ course, talked about one of the great composers, a titbit of their life and how it impacted their work. That’s how this book reads: like the last part of the lecture, done spontaneously and effortlessly and I bet all the students are on the edge of their seat. He shares the important context of the book, like the time it was written or some background on the author and how that influenced the book itself.
The chapter on the Brönte sisters for instance was absolutely terrific. You feel that pinch of sadness that they hardly sold a book in their lifetime (not to mention everything else that happened in that family), but you also learn why Anne Brönte was able to describe the effects of alcoholism so accurately.
You wouldn’t believe the amount of notes I took while reading this book: I wrote down authors, titles, background, interesting things to consider when reading something else next time. Books I have to re-read now that I’ve gained a glance from behind the curtain.
This is an excellent starting point for anyone who wants to brush up on their knowledge of literature.
Disclaimer: This book has been provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.