Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier

DATE PUBLISHED: 1912 DATE READ: September 2009 NOTES: Le Grand Meaulnes is a charming coming of age novel set in France in the 1890s and told through the eyes of fifteen year old Francois Seurel. Everyone is enthralled by a newcomer to his father’s school – Augustin Meaulnes. But soon after joining the school Augustin disappears for three days and returns in a somewhat dreamy state telling of a visit to a strange semi-derelict estate in which a wedding was to be celebrated. He recounts his visit in great detail to Francois who in turn tells the reader – a somewhat clumsy device. His adventure seems to have a magical dimension although a rational explanation is given. Following his visit to the lost estate Augustin determines to find the young woman he met there. Although only a short novel – much is packed into its 200 pages and a complex story covering several years is unfolded. The scenes of the school and of country life are beautifully written as are the main characters of Francois and Augustin. But Franzt de Galais was a much less satisfactory creation. This reads very much like a first novel – a bit too serious and sentimental in parts – but it is easy to understand how it has influenced and inspired so many other writers. Catcher in the Rye, The Magus and The Secret History have all been mentioned in this context but I came to Le Grand Meaulnes after reading the wonderful Black Swan Green by David Mitchell.

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