Thursday, August 2, 2012

Book Recommendation: Monsieur Beaucaire by Booth Tarkington

Monsieur Beaucaire 1900.jpgSome time ago, I was looking through my dad's books, hoping to find something interesting to read. My eye fell on a slim volume with the title Monsieur Beaucaire inscribed in gold along the spine. I had seen this book many times in Dad's library, but I suppose I had passed over it because I figured it was a pouty drawing-room drama or something like that. (I don't have anything against those types of books - they're just not my favorite). But this time I picked the book up and discovered that it was written by a fellow named Booth Tarkington...not exactly the type of name you would associate with pouty drawing-room dramas. As I later learned, ole Booth was an American author, and one of an elite few to have received two Pulitzer prizes; he won his first for his 1918 novel The Magnificent Ambersons and his second for 1921's Alice Adams; incidentally, this second novel, based on its Wikipedia entry, seems pretty close to a pouty drawing-room drama. 

Alright, enough about P.D.D.s.

Here are the first two paragraphs of Monsieur Beaucaire:

     "The young Frenchman did very well what he had planned to do. His guess that the Duke would cheat proved good. As the unshod half-dozen figures that had been standing noiselessly in the entryway stole softly into the shadows of the chamber, he leaned across the table and smilingly plucked a card out of the big Englishman's sleeve.

     "'Merci, M. le Duc!' he laughed, rising and stepping back from the table." 

I absolutely love that opening - the first sentence in particular. From there the book just gets better and better. First and foremost, it's funny - virtually every page leaves you smiling. It also has swordplay, romance, and even a statement about class prejudices; and, if I'm honest, there's some P.D.D. stuff in there as well - but even it is funny.   

Another big plus: the novel is short - very short. You might, if you are so inclined, denominate it a novelette; but at 13,000 words, it's really more of an extended short story than anything else. And because of its brevity, this book has the distinction (for me) of being the only book I have read cover-to-cover two days in a row. Yes, I read it in its completion one day, and then read it again the next day. That's how much I love it.  

Monsieur Beaucaire is available for free on Project Gutenberg and If you are looking for a light piece of entertainment that will make you smile - give it a look.  

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