Our March pick for the Cheshire Cats Classics Book Club was Candide by
Voltaire. This is the oldest classics we have read thus far, and perhaps the shortest! Candide comes in at a slim 97 pages and is jam-packed with adventures, peril, and romance.
Candide was first published in 1759 by the well-known Age of Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire. Candide was brought up in the house of a wealthy baron and early in the book exemplifies the subtitle of the book, optimism. The novel takes a turn when Candide’s love for baron’s daughter is discovered and Candide is thrown out into the world to fend for himself.
The fast-moving plot takes us through wars, and earthquake, a brush with the Inquisition, and we journey with Candide to South America, Asia, and back home to Europe. Candide’s optimism is tested with all of the trials he experiences.
I listened to this book, which was just three audio cds. The reader, Tom Whitworth, was unknown to me, and his reading of Voltaire’s magnus opus was average. His voice was lively enough to keep me moderately entertained and focused on the book, but I found I often drifted away.
The book itself reminded me of how difficult life was during the 18th century. Not only in our own history, but across the globe, great changes were happening politically through wars and words. There were several scenes of war violence and torture, along with details of slavery resulting from war.
Candide ended almost abruptly. I found the ending to be rather ridiculous and far-fetched for a book that was not like that throughout the story. No one is truly happy at the end and Candide is not the bright-eyed, optimistic youth we encounter in the beginning.