TWO BOOKS THAT EVERY STUDENT LIKED. Before Jonathan Leaf became an important playwright, he taught in a public high school for years. (I posted here on how much we liked Leaf’s plays THE GERMANS IN PARIS and PUSHKIN). In this interesting essay on the history of the novel, Leaf notes that in the course of his teaching, he only found two books that every student liked. Most of them liked the books they were assigned, but Leaf says: “[T]here were children who disliked Twain, ones who disliked Dickens, and so on.” The two books they all liked were Hardy’s TESS OF THE D’URBERVILLES and Maupassant’s BEL-AMI. Leaf proposes an explanation why both books were liked: “The stories ‘pay-off’. I don’t think one can underestimate the importance of an ending in a story.” I read BEL-AMI based on the recommendation, and liked it a lot, but I liked it all the way through and would have been enthusiastic about it no matter what the ending.

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