The Sorrows of Young Werther

I'm back!  I know it's been a while since I last did a blog about one of the Top 100 Novels (over 2 months, but whose counting!).  During Christmas and then during January, I hit kind of writing slump, but I am back now and ready to tell you about my most recent read, The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Book 95 on the list.

Valentine's Day has just passed and that makes this the perfect time for talking about this story of innocent love, consuming love, obsessive love, and finally tragic love.

Werther is a gentleman who takes a trip to the countryside for a change of scenery. While he is there he falls in love with Charlotte, a beautiful young woman, who is unfortunately engaged to another man.  Charlotte is irresistible to Werther, and no wonder. She is beautiful, kind, is the caregiver for her younger siblings, visits the sick, is fun and animated and shares many of the same interests and opinions as Werther.  She cares for him as a special friend, but marries her intended Albert, much to our hero's dismay.

Unfortunately, Werther is unable to continue on with his life in a normal way, try as he may. He cannot help but see his love everywhere he looks.  She consumes his thoughts and even when he moves away to a different city and takes an occupation to distract his mind, he find no relief.

“Sometimes I don't understand how another can love her, is allowed to love her, since I love her so completely myself, so intensely, so fully, grasp nothing, know nothing, have nothing but her!” 

This book is not like any other I have ever read. In some ways, it made me think of a Jane Austen novel because of the class distinctions and what is proper and not proper behaviour for people of different positions in life, but it is written in such a different format that I couldn't continue the comparison.

Von Goethe writes his story in the form of letters from Young Mr. Werther to his friend Wilhelm back home, which is an interesting concept because it allows us completely into the mind of our main character. His mind, which is sharp and creative at the beginning, is warped by the obsession and we follow with him to his destruction.

The author, Von Goethe is a poet and his, or should I say Werther's, flowery, descriptive writing takes a bit of getting used to.  For me it was a bit like cake with too much icing. It's good, but it's hard to fully appreciate it because of the overwhelming richness. I found myself reading and re-reading sections to really understand what the writer was saying.

It's almost as if Werther sees the world through tinted glasses and everything is more intensely colourful and vibrant than how we see it. And not only does he see everything that way, he feels it all the more intensely too. That is not always a good thing.

Now for the bottom line.  Did I like it?  Yes.  I didn't love it. I didn't find it as engrossing as The Lord of the Rings trilogy or To Kill a Mockingbird, but there's no denying that Von Goethe's writing makes him worthy of the top 100. This title would be my third favourite out of the ones I've read so far and I would recommend it to someone who is looking for some truly beautiful writing.  It's not a long book, but it shouldn't be rushed either. If you decide to read it, take your time and and try to see the world as it is through Werther's eyes.