Two-fer: Dickens and The American Revolution

DickensSince it has been a busy summer and I’ve gotten behind, this blog entry will have to cover the last two books we have read at Athenaeum.

David Copperfield was the book for May (June 13th meeting). Noted to be Dickens’s own favorite novel of his canon, this book was lengthy and it is easy to imagine how an author can become enamored with characters that he spends so much time thinking and writing about.

The group opinion was somewhat predictably divided along party lines. Some (I can’t remember who else besides Tony) were not pleased with the book, feeling that it was longer than necessary and kept us in Dickens’s sentimental and peculiar world for too long. In short, it was too Dickensian—the all-too-convenient resolutions to hard problems, chance encounters between key characters as if London only had a population of about 150, elaborate Victorian prose, etc.

CopperfieldMost agreed, however, that if these idiosyncrasies can be overlooked and the book read from the perspective of a 19th century reader, then the story itself was heart-warming, it contained many wise and memorable phrases, the characters were usually delightful, and it touched on many important societal themes. And it is left to the tastes of each reader whether they enjoyed the elaborate English narrative prose.

The book for July’s meeting was The Radicalism of the American Revolution. This book generally enjoyed favor with the group, although the opinion prevailed that the last third of the book was the most interesting.

Some of the topics discussed include:GWood

  • Did Wood prove his point?
  • What were some differences between the American and French revolutions?
  • Too little about slavery
  • Washington’s concern for his own reputation
  • How the American Revolution and the years surrounding it are a classical example of the law of unintended consequences.

Most attendees where thankful to have read the book and felt they learned a great deal.

The next book (for this coming Saturday’s meeting) is The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius, followed in September by Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis.

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