Thoughtful Thursday: Gertrude

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Book number 3 on Swamp’s “Top 5” list. The other day I said I felt like I’d read it before, thinking it must have been in college for one of my many literature classes. I said, “I don’t remember much about it, so apparently it made a huge impression the first time around.” Swamp reminded me that he had made me read it when we were in Brazil. Well, no wonder I didn’t remember it, with so many wonderful distractions happening all around! I need light reading when on vacation so I can concentrate on appreciating my experience and adventures. The only book from that trip I do remember reading is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. It made some good points. 🙂 Oh, and Judy Blume’s Summer Sisters. That one I was reading on a boat, and two ladies who befriended me wanted nothing more than to hold it and finger the pages and look at all the foreign words.

Gertrude was written in 1910, and you have to get used to the antiquated writing style to appreciate what’s happening in the story. This is a philosophical novel, and in fact, the story is much less interesting than the snippets of wisdom sprinkled throughout — observations on the human condition. Plot-wise it can be summed up in just a couple sentences. A crippled composer falls in love with a woman. But she falls in love with his best friend and marries him. But they’re totally wrong for each other, and it doesn’t work out. The husband dies, and the composer writes his magnum opus as a result of the failed relationship. Really, I think Hesse just needed a vehicle for his narrator to explain how his mind worked. The themes of isolation, desperation, and love in its many forms are what make this book worth reading.

I could go on in detail, but I just finished writing a 20-page report for Swamp, and I’m officially tired of talking about this book now.

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