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Grendel Paperback – May 14, 1989
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Grendel is a beautiful and heartbreaking modern retelling of the Beowulf epic from the point of view of the monster, Grendel, the villain of the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon epic. This book benefits from both of Gardner's careers: in addition to his work as a novelist, Gardner was a noted professor of medieval literature and a scholar of ancient languages.
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The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic BEOWULF, tells his side of the story.
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I liked most of the book very well, including the opening chapters, and the later appearance of Beowulf. However at times, such as the opening pages of chapter 7, I found the tone of Grendel's perspective jarring and discordant. At other times, such as the closing pages of chapter 7 (I had trouble with chapter 7!), I found Grendel's perspective so repellent I wanted to stop reading. Although the nastiness seemed consistent with the story, it was thoroughly unpleasant.
As with many first person narratives, the book provided no explanation of how, when, and to whom the story was being told. This weakened the impact of the end for me. Yet the voice of the first person narration is part of the strength of the majority of the book, part of what put me under its spell.
Gardner, John. Grendel. New York: Knopf, 1971. Print.
If you are a fan of Poe, Vonnegut, Orwell, Wells, or you just enjoy mind-blowing fiction then read this.
The book also serves as a fantastic critique of humans and their behavior, as Grendel doesn't seem so much like the monster when you've finished reading the book.
If you're familiar with Beowulf, then you should really enjoy this. Even if you haven't read the poem, Grendel is easy to understand on its own.
Be advised, it's got some incredibly abstract and complex parts that will baffle you, but they exist for a reason.
Wonderful book. You'll enjoy it -- In a long line of books revealing the humanity of the monsters of our cultures. Are they more human than we?