Title: Elective Affinities
Publication Date: 1978 (1809)
Source: Birthday Gift
Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple who live a harmonious but idle life in their estate. But the peace of their existence is thrown into chaos when two visitors - Eduard's friend the Captain and Charlotte's passionate young ward Ottilie - provoke unexpected attraction and forbidden love.
Taking its title from the principle of elective affinities - the theory that certain chemicals are naturally drawn to one another - this is a penetrating study of marriage and adultery.
Inspired by Goethe's own conflicting loyalties as he battled to maintain his relationship with his wife and control his feelings for a younger woman, Elective Affinities is one of the greatest works of the romance era: a rich exploration of love, conflict, and the inescapable force of fate.
Elective Affinities opens in a compelling manner. I found the translation flowing and very readable and was soon caught up in the story. You can see what is going to happen ages before events take place, but that makes it all the more interesting to watch how the characters react. The start of part two, with the digression over the daughter's visit, I found a little dull, but soon the main story got back on track again and, being Goethe, you can be certain things will not end well. In some ways this is a more accessible work than The Sorrows of Young Werther; however, I don't think it quite has Werther's impact. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it and would give it a solid four stars.
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