Effi Briest

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Read 07/12/2015-12/12/2015

Rating: 5 stars

Read for The Reader’s Room Winter Scavenger Hunt Challenge

I loved this book. I really liked the main character and thought she was drawn very well. In fact, all the characters were well realised, very human and believable. I liked Effi’s youth and self assurance that was actually naivety, and thought the description of her change following the life changing event, that is really only ever hinted at throughout the book, no need for passionate or salacious details, was very well executed. The whole book models the politesse of 19th century society, where nothing is discussed in the open, but everyone understands what is going on under the surface.

Effi starts out a child, confident that her bizarre marriage to her mother’s former beau is something she is in control of. The realities of separation from her family and childhood home change her outlook on life, and the lifestyle her much older husband follows does not sit well with her effervescent character. Small wonder that her head is turned. The events that follow are tragic, and all involved are aware of the tragedy but are bound by the inevitability of the actions society demands of them.

Effi changes completely, resigned to her fate. She reminds me in some ways of Natasha Rostova in War and Peace. Of the two other 19th century ‘adultery novels’ I’ve read (Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary), this one was the most sympathetic. I felt for all of the characters in each of their situations. I think this is because none of them is self-centred or arrogant in the ways Anna Karenina and Emma Bovary are. All of them are flawed, but each cares about the effects their flaws have on those closest to them. Well worth reading.

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