George Gissing's 1895 novella Sleeping Fires was my first book for the 15/15/15 project. At 101 pages, it took me about 2 hours to read, which is knowledge that will helps me gauge which books I should attempt over the next couple of weeks if I want to complete one each day.
But, what should you know about Sleeping Fires? That it's mostly excellent--I could quibble a tad over the ending--and would be a great first Gissing for anyone who hasn't read him previously and feels frightened of committing to longer works such as New Grub Street or The Odd Women when he's not nearly as popular as many other 19th century writers.
English gentleman Edmund Langley is living in Greece, reading Aristophanes over breakfast, doing his level best to avoid his fellow countrymen who are touring about, when he bumps into an old Cambridge classmate near the Temple of Theseus. Worboys is the traveling companion for an 18-year-old boy, who, it turns out, is the ward of the woman Langley once loved. Langley is intrigued by both Louis and the information that his guardian's husband is now dead.
Louis wants to do something useful with his life, which is profoundly disconcerting to his aristocratic guardian. He's been sent abroad to diminish the influence that a married woman with radical political and humanitarian views has had on him. Worboys is too much of an archaeological geek to have much rapport with Louis, but Langley and Louis fall into an easy companionship.
When Louis receives a letter from his married friend breaking off their correspondence at the request of Louis' guardian, he's upset and determined to return to London immediately to set things right. Langley convinces him that he should go in his stead--this will give Langley an opportunity to reconnect with the only woman he's loved.
But, of course, things won't go exactly as Langley desires.
For the fire that so long had slept within him, hidden beneath the accumulating habits of purposeless, self-indulgent life, denied by his smiling philosophy, thought of as a mere flash amid the ardours of youth--the fire of a life's passion, no longer to be disguised or resisted, burst into consuming flame.
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