Friday, 23 March 2012

A Sentimental Journey - Laurence Sterne

READ: MARCH 05 - 06, 2012

A Sentimental Journey is a novel without a plot, a journey without a destination. It records the adventures of the amiable Parson Yorick, as he sets off on his travels through France and Italy, relishing his encounters with all manner of men and women-particularly the pretty ones. Sterne's tale rapidly moves away from the narrative of travel to become a series of dramatic sketches, ironic incidents, philosophical musings, reminiscences, and anecdotes; sharp wit is mixed with gaiety, irony with tender feeling. With A Sentimental Journey, as well as his masterpiece, Tristram Shandy, Sterne forged a truly original style and established himself as the first of the stream-of-consciousness writers. 

This is probably my first dud of 2012. This short, unfinished novel had a few scenes in it that grabbed my attention but was otherwise rather uninspiring. Sometimes I just had absolutely no idea what was going on in this book, whereas at other points the story had some real potential and looked like it was going somewhere - and then it would jump to something else entirely and that thread of the story would be lost. 

According to my lecturer, this book had a lot of literary illusions to other travelogues, novels and classical literature. I'm probably missing a lot of these references, but it seems that perhaps without this prior knowledge there isn't a lot to appreciate about the actual story? Yorick gets into some mildly amusing situations and there are some moments of irony that can't be missed by any readers, but otherwise this is just the unfinished tale of a man's travels across France and into Italy. It was mostly readable (although there were some times that I had to go back and reread chapters as the sequence of events was difficult to understand) a but I didn't find the story or the protagonist terribly compelling. I think that's the problem - there is no real plot and the author is trying to do something in terms of literary criticism, rather than focusing on telling a story. Perhaps I'll appreciate this book more after my tutorial, but I just don't think this is for me.

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