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Buddenbrooks: the Decline of a Family (Vintage International)

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Johann Buddenbrook ( YOH-hahn BOO-dehn-brohk), the stout, rosy-faced, benevolent-looking patriarch of the Buddenbrook family. He is the wealthy, successful senior partner of a grain-trading firm inherited from his father. Sounds slightly like Monty Python but that’s all the mild humour you get in the stone-cold pudding of dreariness that is Buddenbrooks. The only fun to be had is when the pert young daughter gets married off to some grotesque nasty businessman who later goes bankrupt. Yeah, that’s not much to laugh about.

We barely mentioned the French – the Mitterrands, the Le Pens, the De Gaulles – let alone the Swiss Bernoulli family of mathematicians, or the English Knott family of lighthouse keepers. Among the fictional families, the Simpsons got a mention, but Tolkein's Tooks and JD Salinger's Glass family failed to make the cut. There is a concept in statistics, Regression or Reversion to the Mean, which is widely used in a variety of fields of knowledge. It was first realized by Sir Francis Galton, cousin of Charles Darwin, when he worked on the correlation of heights between adult children and parents.


The sentences are laboriously convoluted, sometimes leaving me without any kind of overview on how this sentence may be structured. The writing style is not difficult to read and understand, though - Mann is able to write engaging chapters, using exactly the right lengths and engaging his readers by creating an interesting atmosphere and allowing you to easily imagine the setting in front of your imaginary eye. And there is a certain subtlety about his humor, which I was personally able to enjoy a lot. Mann views his characters with both irony and intense empathy, propelling the reader’s journey through this momentous narrative. - Summary by Bruce Pirie

Lord Herr Consul,” said Carl Smolt, somewhat abashed, “Rivolution it has to be. Ther’s revolution iverywheer, in Berlin, in Paris –“ The story of the Buddenbrooks is, as the subtitle suggests, about the decline of a wealthy German family during the nineteenth century. It follows multiple generations of Buddenbrooks through their daily minutiae, as well as through marriages and financial struggles. The problem is I felt like I was reading one event after another without any emotional attachment to the characters and what was happening to them. I had begun to really enjoy this section but all too soon, the symphony ended almost on the same note as it had begun: with the fluty tones of the 'little prophetess' and altogether noble character, Sesemi Weichbrodt. Buddenbrooks was Mann's first major novel, a thinly veiled account of his own family's rise and fall over the course of the mid nineteenth century. For a book written by a young man who was only 25 when it was published, it is extremely impressive, but it is very much a book of its time, and by modern standards it sometimes seems glacially slow moving, but very atmospheric, and it recreates a lost world in vivid detail.As the older children grow up, their personalities begin to show. Diligent and industrious Thomas seems likely to inherit the business some day. By contrast, Christian is more interested in entertainment and leisure. Tony has grown quite conceited and spurns an advance from the son of another up-and-coming family, Herman Hagenström. Herman takes it in stride, but Tony bears a grudge against him for the rest of her life. The elder Johann and Antoinette die, and the younger Johann takes over the business, and gives Gotthold his fair share of the inheritance. The half-brothers will never be close, though, and Gotthold's three spinster daughters continue to resent Johann's side of the family, and delight in their misfortune over the coming years. Thomas goes to Amsterdam to study, while Tony goes to boarding school. After finishing school, Tony remains lifelong friends with her former teacher, Therese "Sesemi" Weichbrodt. This pattern applies particularly to family business dynasties: capitalism triumphs over hearth and home. But for others, the Buddenbrooks effect is only the beginning of a much longer and more complicated story, or simply does not apply at all. The Mughals, for example, ruled for generations, demonstrating, if anything, a kind of double Buddenbrooks effect. And there were dozens of Bachs who excelled as musicians from the 16th to the 19th century. The great Khan squash dynasty were more like a sprawling clan than a family. And the Holy Family abide by rules entirely of their own. Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

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