My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh Joseph Conrad, could you ever have imagined you’d get such conflicting reviews about your work on social media over a century after you wrote it?
Of course not, but at least his book has staying power.
I picked Heart of Darkness back up for the first time since high school, after watching Apocalypse Now on basic cable, and thought to myself “Let’s see if this little book is as dense as I remember it being.”
This isn’t an easy read, nor is it particularly cheery or fun. It’s not the type of book you crack open to feel good about on a short flight, but it’s not without merit. Here’s a few highlights and key points that may help influence your decision on whether to read this classic.
* This story defines “purple prose”. Conrad was great at description, and loved his unnecessary words. That, along with the “stream of conscious” style can make things difficult to follow at times.
* The main character isn’t the narrator. This is kind of easy to miss, but Marlow is telling a story, and the narrator is an unnamed person sitting on a boat listening to him.
* This book is a condemnation of colonialism, and as such, features a LOT of racism. There are all sorts of metaphors and even some allegory in Heart of Darkness, but not when it comes to the racism. That’s just right in your face. If you’re sensitive to reading about things like that, it may turn you off from the story.
* The language is dense. At times I found myself re-reading passages just to assure I really understood them. It took way longer to read than a 100 page book has any right to.
TL;DR – It’s a story about a dude listening to a dude tell a story about another dude.
I enjoyed Heart of Darkness for what it is, and it’ll definitely challenge you more than the standard YA vampire novels that are churned out these days. I’m just glad that this time around I didn’t have to write a 4-page essay about the deeper meaning behind Kurtz’s last words.