I always have been a bit wary about reading any book by James Joyce, mostly because several people kept
repeating that his works were so complex and diffuse that it was a very difficult tasks to actually understand his books. Although I read excerpts from his works Dubliners and Ulysses before in literature classes, I never had read a complete novel by him. Up until now.
And I was completely blown away by it. The intricacy and complexity of this bildungsroman, to me, portrayed very credibly the trials and errors a young man (or person) can encounter during his childhood/adolescence. Although the novel takes place in a period and society very much removed from my present day experiences, I could empathise with Stephen Daedalus and for me this showed how many insecurities or worries that teenagers/adolescence might have are not bound to time or place but are more or less universal.
Joyce masterfully intertwines the trails of growing up in turn-of-the-century Ireland and coming-of-age of a young man in a Catholic family. Though I must admit that at times Joyce’s uses of the stream-of-consciousness can be quite disjointing or difficult to follow at times. I realise that the stream-of-consciousness techinque can be quite off-putting for some people. Personally, I find that the reading process becomes easier when you put aside the notion that the text should be presented as a coherent narrative.
I could summarise the story as well, but I find that especially stream-of-consciousness novels should be experienced (and you can find summaries of this novel anywhere on the internet). Although this novel might seem challenging and difficult at first, I do think that you should stick with it and see it as if someone was talking to you in this fashion.
Reading this book makes me want to read more works by James Joyce (although I’m still dreading Ulysses).