My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma is a seminal, though flawed novel. Influential and ahead of its time in its realism, the novel was written in only 52 days and as a result some of the plot elements are poorly introduced and characters come out of nowhere.
Readers who like political intrigue will love The Charterhouse of Parma. Political intrigue dominates the landscape of Stendhal’s novel. The Countess Sanseverina is one of the strongest characters in 19th century literature, or at least one of the only strong heroines who doesn’t have to die in the final chapters.
The pace of The Charterhouse of Parma is fast. It doesn’t have as many long patches of exposition that many 19th century novels have. Action drives the plot forward so it doesn’t get dull.
The sections about the Battle of Waterloo are really fun and satirical and realistic at the same time. Fabrizio is no romantic hero (though unfounded rumors eventually spread that he is). He’s passionate, yet inexperienced.
The best part of The Charterhouse of Parma is the intriguing world of political machinations that Stendhal creates. Secrets plots are everywhere!
The biggest limitation of the novel is the haste with which it was written. The Ferrante character seems to come out of nowhere and seemed like a last minute improvisation.
Bottom Line: The Charterhouse of Parma is a terrific, uncharacteristically fast-paced read for the 19th century.