Benito CerenoBenito Cereno by Herman Melville
My rating: 4/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

melville! in a melville house edition!
crazy, right?

this is a nice taut little thrill-ride of a book. okay, it’s got a lot of description of boat-architecture, so it isn’t a complete thriller – melville does tend to go overboard (GET IT??) with the descriptions sometimes, but regardless, it is more emotionally engaging than, say, that book about the whale. and i haven’t read a book more full of seamen since reading Torn.

to a modern reader, the situation is pretty apparent from the get-go, but the build to the reveal is so graceful and tightly written, that it doesn’t matter if you see where it is going from the beginning; the story is still excellent. one might even call it “a real book.”

love the character of captain delano. it is surprising to me to see such subtlety from melville. i suppose i shouldn’t be – there is a lot of shading in bartleby, but this one is even more so. for a tiny little novella, there is a lot happening here behind the words. after i toss down this review, i am going to go do a little research about how this was received when it was written, because i can only assume there was some backlash about what this book has to say about the slave trade and how unsavory even the well-intentioned, naive “good” characters are portrayed.

also – squeee – there is a nice tie-in to cloud atlas, which is cool because that book is still fresh in my mind, and it was good to have it still in my brain-piece as i was reading the melville.

really glad i decided to snatch this up the other day. it was everything i had hoped it would be.

behold: an uncharacteristic digression!

why didn’t i like moby-dick? people i like like moby-dick. is it because i had to read it in a mandatory american-lit survey course my freshman year at NYU? when i was distracted with “i live in new york” fever?? should i give it another shot? because i have liked both this book and bartleby, but i haaaated that whale. does it deserve a more thoughtful and older-karen revisit?

opinions are encouraged.

read my reviews on goodreads

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