This is an old review of a book I picked up because it was on the Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the century list, and it fulfilled a classics square on the library summer reading challenge that year.
Published: 1900 (since it was published before current copyright law, you can read it for free from gutenberg.org as well)
Length: 416 pages
Setting: various locations throughout the world, late 1800s
Summary: Jim is a mate on the Patna which hit a submerged obstacle on the open sea and seemed like it was about to sink. The captain abandoned ship, leaving 800 pilgrims aboard, and Jim joined him. The ship was rescued, but the officers who abandoned ship were cashiered. Jim was befriended by Marlow, who found him several positions. The best was as an agent of Mr. Stein in the interior of Patusa. There, he became the local lord and dispenser of wisdom, at least until an accident occurred and the chief’s son is shot.
Final thoughts: The events on the Patna were told in Jim’s voice and the rest of the story was told as a recollection by Marlow (most as a story to friends, and the tag end as a letter). It’s an important work of fiction because of Jim’s actions under stress, his loss of honor, and his attempts to regain his honor. Reading it, though, I found it to be only an OK book. It definitely took work and concentration to finish. I couldn’t read it with distractions around me. Conrad also tends to the LONG paragraphs, which made it difficult to find my place when I’d put the book down and pick it back up.
Title comes from: The natives called Jim Taun Jim, which mean Lord Jim
Reading challenges fulfilled: none since this is a review from a previous year
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