Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Classic Lit: The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox

Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press
Date: 1752 (1998)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: because I usually like 18th century novels
Pages: 380
Reading time: months and months

From GoodReads: The Female Quixote, a vivacious and ironical novel parodying the style of Cervantes, portrays Arabella, the beautiful daughter of a marquis, whose passion for reading romances colors her approach to her own life and causes many comical and melodramatic misunderstandings among her relatives and admirers. Both Joseph Fielding and Samuel Johnson greatly admired Lennox, and this novel established her as one of the most successful practitioners of the "Novel of Sentiment."

My review: I finally made iiiiiiitttttttt. I didn't think I would actually reach the end - I've made several pushes to try to finish over the past semester, and only by shear dint of volume have they paid off. A breakdown of my reading:

This summer: The first 100 pages started off strong. As one would assume from the title, there are rather strong, obvious, and humorous ties between The Female Quixote and Don Quixote. The latter is a parody of chivalric romance, while Lennox's work takes the same general premise and applies it to French romances. Hilarity ensues. But after about the first 100 pages, the plot goes on repeat. We realize at this point how odd Arabella is and how much drama her strange views and behaviors will create, so let's just skip to the ending, right? When I realized there were still over 250 pages left, however, my reading slowed significantly.

This semester: When you're having a busy semester, nothing is less inspiring for your extracurricular reading than for the little amount of time you have to be occupied by a boring novel. I just didn't even bother to try continuing this until classes ended.

Winter break: Since I had gotten to somewhere between page 250 and 300 during my summer reading and a couple of half-hearted attempts at either end of the semester, I was determined to get this book over with. I had hoped it would eventually pick up at some point. It didn't. I hardly know what I was reading, since I zoned out a lot. There were too many words and pages for the actual stuff that was occurring, so I don't think it mattered all that much, anyway. This might have been a decent read had everything been condensed, but as it stands, The Female Quixote is the most dense and needlessly long-winded 18th century novel I've ever read.

Last note: It might have helped if modern readers were familiar with the works being satired in The Female Quixote (I mean, a lot of the stuff from Don Quixote is still floating around), but I've never heard of any of them and assume they're all long out-of-print. The constant references to a couple of key works were utterly lost on me.

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