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The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 18, 2007
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The story begins to unfold as Meaulnes, a popular newcomer at a small village boarding school, sets of on an impulsive errand which he hopes will secure his reputation among his peers. Like most journeys (both literary and real) which have life-changing results, Meaulnes has no idea what he is getting himself in for. Losing his way in the French countryside, Meaulnes by chance happens upon a lavishly surreal wedding party where he briefly mets a beautiful young woman with whom he falls madly in love. After the party suddenly and tragically breaks up, Meaulnes again loses his way, finding himself back at school with no idea how to get back to "the lost estate" and his love. Meaulnes' obsession with finding this young woman and the happiness he knew only briefly compose the heart of this novel. I won't give too much away, but Meaulnes' quest is complicated by friendship and honor, with heart-breaking results.
This is a very moving story, and one which certainly everyone can identify with. Reading this book is like experiencing a bittersweet, haunting dream of childhood innocence. How sad that this was the only novel Alain-Fournier ever wrote; he was killed in World War I. I have to thank Penguin Classics for reissuing this beautiful classic, which has remained largely unknown in the English speaking world for far too long.
I discovered this book by accident. I was in the French section of my university library, restlessly searching for something to read, something with life to it. I found an earlier Penguin translation by Frank Davidson. It was like discovering an unknown treasure buried amongst the known classics.
The first part of this book deals with the discovery of the "Estate", the second part takes on Meaulnes search for his dream girl. It is a small piece but haunting. There are passages you want to return to again and again. This is the book for anyone who wants to reclaim some memory of innocence and simplicity in their lives. It is a golden world, a time before World War I (Alain-Fournier, the author was sadly killed in action on the Meuse in 1914), right after the fin-de-siecle.
The book has a beautiful, albeit melancholic tone to it. I won't say more but that it reminds me of the feeling you get when you listen to Debussy piano pieces. If you want something less heavier than Proust and Joyce, something with depth but also wondrous, pick this beautiful work up. This is a rainy, Sunday afternoon read.
This is the only novel of Alain-Fournier, who was killed in action in September, 1914, so early in the war that it pre-dated the trench system, which is the enduring image of the First World War. His novel is set in the fin-de-siecle countryside, in a region fittingly called today "Centre", yes, the very heartland of France, near George Sand's "The Berry." The novel is told through the eyes of the youthful Francois Seurel. The person who is called "Le Grand Meaulnes" arrives at Francois's father's small schoolhouse to become a boarder. Meaulnes is slightly older, tall, and has had a couple experiences in the world, earning him the "Grand" moniker, and he serves as a "mentor" to others, particularly Francois. He is the "leader of the pack." A central scene involves a grand "fete," a party at a mysterious chateau. Much of the novel involves efforts by Meaulnes, and others, to find, and return to this idyllic setting, hence the theme of a sense of youthful innocence and loss. There are adults in the novel, but mainly they serve only as a backdrop for the youthful action.Read more ›
The narrative is fluid, vivid and nuanced, a testimony to the translator of this Penguin edition. I regret I did not study French and have not read this in its original language, but this version has a grounded, natural expressiveness that does not feel removed from another tongue. The novel captures provincial French culture and its values on the cusp of the 20th century, particularly illustrating the perspective of what defines childhood, adolescence and adulthood. Francois serves as an ideal foil to Augustin providing gentle shading around the large outline cut by his friend.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When we become adults we cross a threshold and forever after the world of the child is lost to us - indeed we try and block it out. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ramsbottom-isherwood
The language in this story is beautiful, as is the plot. Every sentence is elegant. So French! It is hard to believe that this book is not better known.Published 16 months ago by Virginia Stewart
I read the book and it was nicely written, however, it was not what I expected after reading the reviews and listening to npr talking about it. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Edyta Brzeczkowska
In English, the meaning of the word disillusioned carries a subtly different meaning than it does in French. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Dan Harlow
This is the most beautiful book for me, somehow the lost past lingers around one while one is reading it. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Gabriella Bollobas