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Tristram Shandy - Laurence Sterne

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Author: Laurence Sterne / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 23 October 1995 / Subcategory: Classic Fiction / Publisher: Wordsworth Editions Ltd / Title: Tristram Shandy / ISBN 13: 9781853262913 / ISBN 10: 1853262913 / Alternative EAN: 9780141439778

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      24.03.2012 19:55
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      A challenging read, but an excellent example of stream of consciousness.

      This was on my reading list for my course at university. Upon opening the book I was immediately struck by the lack of puncutation in some places and the overuse of it in others. This book is not everybody's cup of tea - it certainly was not mine!
      The book is supposed to detail out Tristam Shandy's life. If you can follow his narrative, I take my hat off to you!

      The writing -
      As this was written in the mid 1700s, it has those peculiar turns of phrase that are very outdated now but which at the same time are very charming. Writtin as a stream of conciousness the subject can be changed without a moment's notice and punctuation can sometimes be lacking.

      There are some pages which have no writing on at all - One is painted black and another has a marbled effect. These are used to back up some point he has just made.

      The writing will jump from subject to subject which can be very confusing at times if you have missed a small detail.

      The character of Tristam Shandy is likeable but not entirely believable to somebody from our time - this was written in the mid 1700s afterall. He is an example of how a gentleman should have been back in this period.

      Overall -
      This is a challenging book. I did not enjoy it too much because of the rapid change of subject and how heavy the writing was in places.

      However, it is an excellent example of stream of consciousness and I would recommend it to anybody looking to write in this particular style.

      Also up on Ciao! under the same username :)

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        18.01.2002 17:29
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        This book is a huge literary in joke, which some more modern writers like to allude to. (Salman Rushdie in "Midnight's children" apparently) The odds are these days that unless you study literature to degree level, you will never hear of this book. There may be good reasons for this, as Sterne walks the fine line between genius and insanity in his writings. The novel form largely started with books written as though they were real life biographies or autobiographies - take "Moll Flanders" as a good example. "Tristram Shandy" takes this form and does truly unpleasant and funny things to it - from a certain perspective, it is a gloriously subversive piece of work. My sympathies go out to anyone who picks this off a shelf and thinks they are in for something akin to Defoe. It's the sort of book it helps to know about before you try and read it. I was lucky in that several of my lecturers enthused at length to me before I took the plunge. Consequentally, I was not utterly confused, although I will admit to being quite lost on several occasions. One thing that this book clearly establishes from early on, is that to claim to write 'The life and opinions' of anyone is misguided - there is too much life to get all of it on the page. Where to begin? Tristram (our intreptid narrator) starts with the events leading up to his conception and birth (quite saucy really)and spends a lot of time explaining why he was nearly called Trismagistus - his father has a theory about names, and considers Tristram to be a very miserable name..... it's a long story. So long in fact that we get a good way through the book before our hero is even born. The tale is fragmented, leaping about time wise, starting tales and never quite finishing them, lingering on the trivial and inserting strange features like blank pages when people die. Like life, it makes very little sense and the focus seems to be all wrong. <
        br><br> The characters - there are lots of bit parts, but the book is dominated by the three men in the Shandy family - Tristram, his father Walter and his Uncle Toby. Tristram: the unfortunate young hero who was accidentally circusized by a falling sash window. Apart from this, Tristram's life is not especially eventful (three years after reading it and I can't recall a single thing post the window incident that happened to him.)His opinions not that memorable and mostly pertaining to his immediate surroundings.As a narrator, he's quite a perplexing figure and I never really felt that I managed to get to know him. Walter Shandy - prone to strange theories, this man's other main quality as that on the same night, once a month he performs his two main tasks in life - to wind the clock and to..... wind his wife's ...... clock, hence a very amusing bedroom scene where the latter process is disrupted by a discusion about whether the former has been performed! Uncle Toby - for me, this man totally dominated the book. He's a strange figure who, for reasons best known to himself, gets into re-enacting battles by building ever more complex sets in the garden, and then blowing them up. The descriptions are quite compelling. He's clearly quite eccentric, and very amusing. By far the most accssible of the three, if the least comprehensible in some ways. It's noticable that most of the women are just shadows moving about in the background - they come and go with little introduction or explanation, and love interests are hinted at in ways that confused me for one. If you like grotesque writing, then this is a must read. There are some outrageous moments, where the grotesqueness of characters and situations are really explored. If you like plots that make sense, simple language, short books, female characters, deep psychological insight, pace, drama, tension or anything of that ilk, y
        ou will almost certainly hate this book. Enjoying it requires a certain kind of humour. If you like literary injokes and having your brain teased a bit, you may well like this. Be warned, the writing style is quite dense and does take a fair amount of getting into. I do feel its a book that will require more than one reading (and must admit I only read it the once.) It's the sort of text you have to carefully make friends with and spend time getting to know before you're really going to be able to get much out of it. I thought it was worth it, but then, I know I'm mad....

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          05.01.2002 06:19
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          *Tristram Shandy* is one long practical joke - a joke played on the reader. So it helps no end to be ready to have your leg pulled. But then all kinds of other things are pulled too - Tristram's conception is interrupted by his mother asking his father whether or not he had forgotten to wind up a certain clock; Tristram is accidentally circumcised as a child by a falling sash window; Tristram's Uncle Toby invites the lady he is wooing to put her finger on the very spot where he was wounded in the groin at the siege of Namur. *Tristram Shandy* is one of the most stylistically anarchic and original works in the English language. It was written in the 1760's by a Yorkshire Parson and, among canonical novels, uses a range of devices unparalleled until Joyce brought out *Ulysses* - blank pages, blackened pages, marbled pages, tons of asterisks, squiggles to depict the way that Corporal Trim flourishes his stick, graphs depicting the progress of the narrative, etc. I'll give some pointers on the story shortly. But first my experience of actually trying to read the book. HOW TO READ *TRISTRAM SHANDY* If I'm honest, it took me four attempts (over a period of 16 years) to get into Tristram Shandy. On each attempt I just got fed up with the bewildering digressions and the strange mixture of spurious and genuine and thoroughly irrelevant erudition. The thing that opened this amazing and tricky book was to listen to it on the car's tape deck on long journeys. The Penguin tapes, read by Steven Pacey, are stupendous. (The Naxos recording with Joe Moffat is good - more material than the Penguin, but Pacey's reading is more entertaining.) Necessarily they cut out a great deal of extraneous detail and he captures the characters most engagingly. Once I had got the benefit of the overall picture, going back to the full text was both a doddle and a delight. And because there is not much plot to the story
          in the usual sense of the word, it isn't "spoiled" by the telling. WHAT *TRISTRAM SHANDY* IS LIKE *Tristram Shandy* is a smutty, ludicrous, satirical, sentimental book which, by endless digression, takes you backwards and forwards through the life and opinions of Tristram's closest male relatives (women are carefully kept in the background). We are told, in elaborate and chaotic detail, the circumstances surrounding Tristram's conception and birth. We are introduced to one of the most engaging of all comic fictional creations: Tristram's Uncle Toby. It is hard not to fall in love with Uncle Toby. The characters are depicted mainly in terms of their obsessions ("hobby horses"). The utterly gentle Uncle Toby is depicted mainly with reference to his reconstructions of sieges on his bowling green - he's obviously one of the first wargamers. The life of Walter Shandy (Tristram's father), is dominated by his highly eccentric taste for philosophising and coming up with "Shandean" hypotheses (e.g. the proposition that one of the things that most deeply affects your character is your forename - and one of the most accursed forenames is "Tristram"). For a long time, the polite reading public commonly read *Tristram Shandy* in excerpts. Of course, the naughty bits were cut out and the most sentimental parts were kept in - so there's this strange dislocation between the *Tristram Shandy* that most people read until the modern age and its literary reputation. It must also be borne in mind that *Tristram Shandy* is not as strikingly original as you might think at first. I have a hunch that Sterne owes a great debt of gratitude to those other famous literary clerics: François Rabelais, Robert Burton, and Jonathan Swift. The Penguin Classics edition is very thorough and is based on the standard scholarly edition, the Florida Edition.

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          The first novel by Sterne, Tristram Shandy illuminates the incongruous behaviour of the individuals who live at Shandy Hall and their neighbours. A novel that has no beginning, middle or end, it is made up of a mass of inconsequential reminiscences, musings, and often hilarious digressions.