Victory: An Island Tale by Joseph Conrad
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Spoiler alert: If you're going to read this novel, you might not want to read the last paragraph of this post.
An island adventure on the other side of the world in the days of the British Empire. A misunderstood man, an abused woman, a vengeful enemy, bad guys. Love, pity, jealousy, slander, greed. It has the makings of a great story.
The book slowly builds (and sometimes very slowly) into a mighty crescendo at the end. The point of view switches around so you see inside Heyst and Lena, as well as the bad guys. Some times the psychologizing is heavy-handed and unrealistic. But overall, not a bad tale.
The biggest puzzle to me is the title. Since everyone dies at the end, where's the victory? Unless it's Schomberg, the German hotel owner, a despicable character. He is avenged on his contrived enemy Heyst, but he still lost the girl. Cliff Notes suggests it's Lena, the girl Axel Heyst rescues from the orchestra at the hotel; she finally wins Heyst's love. But I think she already had it before she made her sacrifice, even though he had difficulty expressing it. Perhaps it's Heyst himself; he overcomes his indifference to the world when he experiences feelings for Lena and does what he can to protect her. When she dies, he cannot be indifferent to that, and he kills himself beside her, burning everything down around them. Now that's love, baby.
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