Twenty books down! Today I read Hermann Hesse’s Beneath the Wheel. Hesse is one of my favorite authors, and Beneath the Wheel did not disappoint. It tells the story of Hans Giebenrath, a gifted student who struggles to find his purpose in life despite his tremendous intellectual ability. His struggles are exacerbated by the number of people expecting greatness from him, including his father, pastor, principal, and teachers. Hans cannot handle the pressure and is sent home from his prestigious academy due to mental health issues. He has no more success finding his way at home, where his first experiences with love and physical labor offer hope but ultimately disappoint. The ending was not what I expected but was excellent. Despite being written over a century ago (in 1906), Hesse’s book remains vibrant and fresh. The characters are endowed with a depth that makes them easily accessible to modern audiences. As far as coming-of-age stories go, Beneath the Wheel is near the top of my list. I enjoyed it more than Catcher in the Rye (which borders on blasphemy for an American English teacher).
20 Read, 80 To Go
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I felt this book to be rather empty compared to other novels by Hesse. I did enjoy reading it, but maybe it suffered the ‘Second Novel Syndrome,’ as Peter Camenzind was a fantastic first work.
Thanks for commenting! I would agree that it is not Hesse’s best. I read it not long after reading Rosshalde, and I thought Beneath the Wheel was much better. Having since read Peter Camenzind, I definitely think both Rosshalde and Beneath the Wheel pale in comparison.