Friday, March 1, 2013

Review: Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

 Title: Billy Budd, Sailor
Author: Herman Melville
Genre: Classics
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Published: 1924
Pages: 151

Rating - 3 out of 10

I read Moby Dick years ago and loved it, so I had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, I disliked it from the start. It was flatly written, inexpressive, and featuring endless run-on sentences that ramble their way across an entire page. Every description and event seemed very removed, recounted in a far-off, stiff writing style.
I also disliked Melville's depiction of the main character, Billy Budd, a.k.a. "The Handsome Sailor" (yes, that really is his nickname) as painstakingly perfect. He is described as the paragon of human nature and physical appearance. Billy's only flaw is that he develops a stutter when alarmed. I have never liked main characters like this, partly because they are boring to read about, and also partly because they always seem utterly unrealistic.
The storyline is about the heroic, honorable Billy being falsely accused of betrayal. His accuser, the villainous ship's master-at-arms, develops a hatred of Billy for no reason whatsoever, and sets out to get him framed - for no reason. He's just that evil.

In Moby Dick, I loved Melville's dense, complex writing, but here, the book seems heavily bogged down. There is almost no dialogue, and for such a short book, he spends many pages describing irrelevant details about the scenery, especially relating to the ship.
A disappointment.