No lust here – Book Review: The Way of All Flesh

This book is a classic, and I have always avoided reading it because somehow the title made me feel it would be prurient–like one of the romance novels you see in the grocery store checkout lines. Boy, was I wrong.

A New York Times reviewer called The Way of All Flesh “a time bomb of literature. It lay hidden in Samuel Butler’s desk for 30 years. When it was published after he died, it blew up the Victorian family and with it the whole great edifice of the Victorian novel. George Bernard Shaw, the free thinking iconoclast, called him the greatest English writer of the latter half of the nineteenth century.”

I loved the author’s observations on human nature. Butler wrote this with beautiful Charles-Dickens-type-English word choices and complex but elegant sentence structure. But it’s the incisive observations about people that make you want to turn down the corners of so many pages so you can remember the brilliant insight in this sentence or that paragraph. He thinks much more like a modern person than someone who lived in the Victorian era.

Living in a very small condo in Chicago means I have limited room for “stuff” including books. But this is one book I will buy and keep on my shelf. I look forward to letting it give me pleasure many times in the future.

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