Like most of "Great" novels of the 18th century that I've braved opening, I found Heart of Darkness to be both exhilaratingly badass and desperately dry and boring. If you're used to breezing through novels in a week or two, expect to slow your pace significantly. If it's true that some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested, HoD is some prime beef jerky: delicious and infuriatingly slow to masticate.
Forget the whole "50 pages a night before bed" deal, I had to push myself to get through 2-3 pages a night (and then I slept like a baby). However, in return I was rewarded with one of the most epic, dark, and rewarding stories I've ever encountered, and two of my all-time favorite literary passages:
“I don't like work--no man does--but I like what is in the work--the chance to find yourself. Your own reality--for yourself not for others--what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
“Going up that river was like travelling back to the earliest beginnings of the world, when vegetation rioted on the earth and the big trees were kings. An empty stream, a great silence, an impenetrable forest. The air was warm, thick, heavy, sluggish. There was no joy in the brilliance of sunshine. The long stretches of the waterway ran on, deserted, into the gloom of overschadowed distances. [...] And this stillness of life did not in the least resemble a peace. It was the stillness of an implacable force brooding over an inscrutable intention. It looked at you with a vengeful aspect.”
I come from a very liberal area, where sentiments like needing to love your work and the inherently peaceful goodness of nature are accepted without too much questioning, so I found these two passages to be both brutally and blessedly refreshing. The quote about no man liking to work is something that I try to remember every day and have found both realistic and fortifying for the grind.
PS. I'd be remiss if I went through a review of Heart of Darkness without mentioning Apocalypse Now, one of my favorite movies of all time, and nearly as exhausting as the book (if such a thing were possible). I'm not sure if I'd love the book as much as I do if I hadn't seen Apocalypse Now first. Make sure to watch it if you're thinking about reading HoD, you'll thank me later.