Who wrote this book and when?
James Joyce published this as a book in 1916; before that it was a serialized magazine article.

Has there been a film version?
I don’t think so.

Who are the important characters?
Stephen Dedalus – the pseudonym for James Joyce himself, this is a fairly autobiographical tale
Stephen’s father – a drunkard who is bad at managing money but wants his son to be someone important

What’s it about?
This is the autobiography of James Joyce – I mean Stephen Dedalus. We start with Stephen as a young boy, about to attend Clongowes School for Boys, a private school. He struggles along with the other boys in his class about regular boy things: school classes, who will make the team, whether or not he’s picked on or popular. However, Stephen seems to think a lot more deeply about other concepts than his classmates. When a boy dies in the sick ward while Stephen is there, Stephen thinks a great deal about what it would be like if he died – where would he be buried, who would cry, would his parents come?

As Stephen grows older, his father’s drunkenness and inability to manage money forces Stephen to leave Clongowes and attend other schools. One of these schools is a theological school. Stephen seriously considers becoming a monk, but is plagued with lust after realizing he is in love with one of his childhood friends.

The rest of the book explores Stephen’s growth into an introspective and expressive man – an artist, a poet. He continues to struggle with his feelings for the young woman throughout the entire novel. But as his journey progresses, he also struggles with his identity as an Irishman, his association with the Catholic Church, and his connections with his family. Ultimately, a crisis of identity must be reached and overcome, for better or for worse.

Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
I have no idea.

Do you recommend I read this book?
Not really. Unless you very much enjoy coming of age stories with a lot of confusing dialogue and philosophy in them.

Why did this book make your list?
It’s supposed to be the greatest novel every written…apparently.

Has this book won any awards?
Probably, although I don’t know which ones.

Favorite Quotes:

“The vastness and strangeness of the life suggested to him by the bales of merchandise stocked along the walls or swung aloft out of the holds of steamers wakened again in him the unrest which had sent him wandering in the evening from garden to garden in search of Mercedes.” – p 76

“While his mind had been pursuing its intangible phantoms and turning in irresolution from such pursuit he had heard about him the constant voices of his father and of his masters, urging him to be a gentleman above all things and urging him to be a good catholic above all things. These voices had now come to be hollow sounding in his ears. When the gymnasium had been opened he had heard another voice urging him to be strong and manly and healthy and when the movement towards national revival had begun to be felt in the college yet another voice had bidden him to be true to his country and help to raise up her fallen language and tradition. In the profane world, as he foresaw, a worldly voice would bid him raise up his father’s fallen state by his labours and, meanwhile, the voice of his school comrades urged him to be a decent fellow, to shield others from blame or to beg them off and to do his best to get free days for the school. And it was the din of all these hollowsounding voices that made him halt irresolutely in the pursuit of phantoms. He gave them ear only for a time but he was happy only when he was far from them, beyond their call, alone or in the company of phantasmal comrades.” – p 92, 93

Anything else?
There was way too much latin in this book. I need my friend Sara Buss to translate it for me or something…

Personal thoughts:
Not for a very long time has a book taken me over a month to finish reading. Especially a book only 250 pages long. C’mon now – what the heck? And as you can probably tell from the length which it took to complete it – I did not enjoy this book. The beginning was alright, I liked Stephen and I liked how he communicated about himself. But as the novel progressed and as Stephen matured, I grew to dislike him more and more. He wasn’t just confusing and way way too philosophical, he was arrogant and stand off-ish. Not a good quality for an audience to try and understand. Maybe this book was just too smart for me – after all, it’s supposed to be one of the greatest works of literature of all time. I just don’t see how that happened. It’s a wonderful portrayal of a transformation, I suppose. And it’s honest, and tells of a rebellion against God and country (which a lot of people like nowadays…). And the voice does evolve along with the main character into maturity. But the BEST novel of all time? Please.

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