Saturday, July 21, 2007


When I joined the Great Books Foundation, among other things I got a free novel from a list. I first asked for Emma, and then something else, and then something else. all my choices from the list were out of stock so I wound up with Justine.The first book of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, Justine begins with a lot of promise. The first few pages show masterful writing and an intriguing story of a man who goes to an island with a young girl he's supposed to care for. Later he describes what brought him to this point.

However, I soon detached from the main characters, the narrator, Melissa, his girlfriend, Nessim, an aristocrat in Alexandria, and his enigmatic wife, Justine. They were all so despondent and lost, yet except for Melissa rather priviledged. Self-absorbed rich people can be done well. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Evelyn Waugh succeed with this mileu.

I can't say this is a bad book, it just wasn't my cup of tea at present. Some of the writing is beautiful, (I liked perspicacous* lines like "He had not really changed inside. He had merely adopted a new mask" (p. 241) which shows insight, but there were also too many pedantic or unbelievable lines like "her voice grew furry and moist . . ." (p. 225). Just how does someone's voice get "furry"?

The setting should have been vivid for me. It wasn't. I have no vision of Alexandria on the eve of World War II. When there's an exotic setting, I need to vicariously experience it. He does describe various places, but I soon forgot them.

Well, on to something else. I won't be reading the rest of this quartet.

*I'm studying for the GRE, which I'm taking Wednesday so I'm going to throw around some pedantic lingo myself. Yet if I were writing a novel, I'd edit it out at some point.

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