Fathers and Sons (Oxford World's Classics) Oxford World's Classics Edition
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Maybe the most unusual and annoying quirk of Freeborn’s is his frequent and completely unnecessary use of the word “literally”:
- “his pipe literally jumped up and down in his fingers”
- “She literally ‘went into hiding’….”
- “he had literally felt himself sitting on hot coals”
- “You’ll literally forget my physiognomy”
But the biggest problem with Freeborn is his lack of good judgment when it comes to choosing the right word. Whether he wants to be different or simply doesn’t know better, he makes some strange decisions, the most obvious of which is his use of the word “mister” when it should be “gentleman”:
- “He’s a mister of genius!”
- “You’re a dangerous mister.”
Once I got to that, I understood why the book was selling for $5.03.
Though most of the characters are “old money”, landed pseudo-aristocrats and Russian military in background (and reasonably well educated – at least the men) thus giving the reader a view of Russian life from their perspective, the thrust of the novel illuminates the age-old differences between the generations and the gaps between science and superstition.
“Fathers and Sons” is not a sweeping epic tome that launches you into the great endless Russian landscape. Rather, it’s short, about 220 pages, and yet is filled with adventure, great characters, a little humor, personal triumphs and tragedy, to say nothing of the sounds, smells, tastes, travels, food and drink of the day. Thus, it is tidy and centered only on the story of the particular fathers and sons. It’s a sumptuous brief novel which reads exceedingly well and quickly. The translation is modern and apt. Each of the 2 sons (who are great friends in their 20’s at the time of the novel) are as different as can be. At first for during the initial 40 or 50 pages or so, I began to think the 2 young men (the sons) were “more” than just pals. I was wrong about that and glad for my mistake. Their growing pains and pleasures, constrained by culture and protocol of the time, seem normal and universal by the end of the story. One — Arkady Kirsanov – eventually marries happily and the other – Yevgeny Bazarov, the nihilist …. well, you’ll have to read it to find out.
Not one page disappoints. “Fathers and Sons” is true treasure to discover and devour. It’s a 5 for sure, a classic.
This short novel, it’s stunning characters, and the inherent conflict of the younger new ways breaking loudly through the quaintness of the older views of the prior generation are no less relevant now than in mid-nineteenth century Russia. This plot will likely always remain fresh and relevant.
Top international reviews
I found reading about Russia and during that period so fascinating (like how they all have three names and the middle name is their fathers first name, or how they all spoke French except the peasants who spoke Russian). And the social change that the book is based on was very interesting too. The gap between generations is a clear, defined line which the author explores through the characters.
I truly learnt a lot and yet it didn't feel like ready because the story and characters were so enjoyable that I was racing through it, caught up in the story. I came to like and dislike many of the characters. And then the plot which at first seemed mundane then had a wee shocking twist near the end.
So, overall very enjoyable. I'd recommend it to those looking for an intellectual read.