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Before the Storm (The World's Classics) Paperback – June 27, 1985

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Language Notes

Text: English, German (translation)
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Product Details

  • Series: The World's Classics
  • Paperback: 744 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st Ed(AsSuch) edition (June 27, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192816497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192816498
  • Product Dimensions: 4.6 x 1.2 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,512,476 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Russael on February 12, 2013
Format: Paperback
I read the other review, wherein the reader abandoned the book, and I thought I would weigh in. Not to contradict the other reader, but simply to provide another perspective. It may be that Fontane is not for everyone. Yet I've found him irresistible, the first moment I heard of him I had to read everything he wrote. My German friend said I read things that nobody in Germany reads. I guess Effi Briest is the main thing read there. Fontane depicts life in a growing Berlin in the second half of the 19th century. But before he did that, he wrote this historical novel, Before the Storm. It's about occupied Prussia, before they threw off the Napoleonic yoke and set out on the path of unifying Germany. It's that pregnant moment before the storm arrives. I loved all the life in it. He's not a novelist of a lot of plot, but for me that's a good thing. Fontane is a wonderful writer of dialog, he loves Germany, and incidentally his name is French Huguenot - Frederick the Great invited all the Hugenots to come from France to Prussia. You might like him. I love him.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on March 3, 2014
Format: Paperback
Although Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) was born in the same decade as Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte, his first novel, “Vor dem Sturm” (“Before the Storm”), was not published until 1878, by which time Dickens had been dead for eight years and Bronte for over twenty. Despite this slow start to his career as a novelist, Fontane quickly made up for lost time; in the remaining twenty years of his life he completed fifteen more novels, leaving another unfinished at his death.

Like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, “Before the Storm” is a historical novel dealing with Napoleon’s unsuccessful invasion of Russia, but does so from a German point of view. The action takes place over a few weeks between December 1812 and February 1813, mostly in Berlin or the March of Brandenburg, the area of countryside between Berlin and the River Oder. After her humiliating defeat at the Battle of Jena in 1806, Prussia, while still nominally an independent state, had effectively been under French occupation and had been compelled to supply troops for Napoleon’s Russian campaign. This forced alliance was, however, resented by many Prussians, who hoped for the liberation of their country from French rule and actively welcomed news of Napoleon’s defeat. One of the main characters in the novel, the aristocratic landowner Berndt von Vitzewitz, is planning to lead a popular uprising against the French, even though the Prussian King Frederick William III and his government still officially maintain a pro-French position. (He is loosely based upon a real individual, Friedrich von der Marwitz).

The title “Before the Storm” is significant. By “the storm” Fontane meant the “Befreiungskrieg”, or War of Liberation, in which the German people, encouraged by the Russian victory, rose against their French oppressors.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By sally tarbox on November 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
I didn't manage to complete this - gave up 120 pages in (it's 700 pages long.)
Set in Brandenburg in Christmas 1812, Storm gives beautiful and evocative descriptions of the world of a small estate and the people around it. In the outside world, we are aware that Napoleon is withdrawing from Moscow - but only through comments made.
Basically I just couldn't go any further as nothing happens. The young people of the estate meet up and spend a whole chapter comparing and contrasting two Prussian poets for example. There's a well-written chapter describing a local dwarf...surely she's entering the plot now??...no (well not yet anyway.)
Was I being difficult? I read the introduction which informs me 'until the final quarter...there is hardly any action at all. So little that when a trivial incident occurs in the thirty-first chapter, the author entitles the chapter "Something Happens." ' When I saw all the 'gratuitous information' I was to be treated to in future chapters: a reading of an account on the Battle of Borodino, a playbill reproduced in French for a dramatic performance, lond stretches of aimless talkj...I felt life was too short.
The reader should also note that there are 33 pages of notes at the back to which one constantly needs to refer; battles, poets, places, ancient tribes. Knowing little about Prussia, I was checking names out on every page.
Fine writing - but not for me.
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Format: Paperback
I gave Before the Storm a real try, but in the end, I simply could not get through it. The novel is so immersed in Prussian history that I simply could not get a firm grounding in the story. The lack of a plot did not bother me. What did bother me was the many, many characters, and the many historical referents which did in fact overwhelm me. The writing was good. There were stupendous passages and splendid poetry. The introduction would have had to have been almost as long as the novel to give a reader a firm grounding in the historical setting. I think that Fontane just put in too much and connected the strands of the novel too loosely for its reading to be enjoyable. As I approached the halfway point of the novel, I realised how much of a chore this had become and I put it down.
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