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Mountolive (Alexandria Quartet #3)

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  1,246 ratings  ·  85 reviews
Mountolive is a novel of vertiginous disclosures, in which the betrayer and the betrayed share secret alliances and an adulterous marriage turns out to be a vehicle for the explosive passions of the modern Middle East.
Published 2004 by Edhasa (first published 1958)
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Third in the Quartet and according to Durrell the “nail” that held the rest together. It centres on the diplomat David Mountolive and approaches the events of the first two books from a different angle with a longer timeline. This is probably the most autobiographical of the novels and Mountolive has many elements taken form Durrell himself.
At this point you realise who little Darley knew in the first novel and how much more complex were the ebbs and floes going on around him. Mountolive has bee...more
Lori (Hellian)
After a long break from Balthazar, I thought it might be tricky getting back into the Quartet but instead I feel back at home. I've tried reading other books but this one kept beckoning. My god, the language transports me. This narrative starts out predating the ones presented by Darley and Balthazar in books 1 and 2.

Finished yesterday. So far my favorite. The most straight forward narrative so far, mostly from the POV of Mountolive, but then switching to the omni narrative. The prose, oh my god...more
What I said in my comment... about the absence of plot in Durrell, is quite wrong. With Mountolive, I can now see why people think the Quartet is a masterpiece.

Lawrence Durrell
Alexandria Quartet, #3

When I was young, I used to play in the Pacific Ocean, where it meets the Oregon Coast. Even in summer, the water is cold - so cold that it hurts. Children, though, are tough, and I found that if you could take the pain long enough, eventually it would stop. My body would recognize that my brain just wasn't listening, and it would turn off the signal; I'd go numb, and then I could play in the water as long as I want
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in July 2005.

The third novel of the Alexandria Quartet may cover the same events for a third time, but it is quite different from both Justine and Balthazar. Mountolive moves away from the first person narrative by a young poet (whose name, we learn, is Darley, significantly similar to Durrell). It is replaced by a third person tale which mainly follows the point of view of Mountolive, a much older man and British ambassador to Egypt just before the war - a m...more
Nate D
I'm not so sure about these. Durrell's prose is evocative but feels ornately dated, and his attitudes somewhat follow suit: his cast and landscape are diversely spread, but always feel trapped in a kind of fading colonialism.


In the pages beyond the end of Balthazar lie a few pages of notes from interviews with the novelist Pursewarden. One of them is Durrell's own map to his quartet:

To the medieval world-picture of the World, the Flesh and the Devil (each worth a book) we moderns have added
Peter Brooks
The Alexandrian quartet is more of an adventure than a read. The people and city reveal themselves not as simply characters in a story, but as four dimensional beings, viewed from completely different perspectives. I've read the quartet four times and I'm planning, soon, to read it again. I suppose that I'll start with Justine, but I've been wondering if it might be more enjoyable to read them in the reverse of the usual order.

Having said all this, Lawrence Durrell isn't for everybody (some even...more
Impressive, gives a completely new view of the complex relationship between characters, full of sudden and unexpected turns… I was shocked most of the time while reading.

Going back now, I cannot help the feeling that Justine was just an illusion, an imaginary bubble created by poor Darley, and together with Balthazar served just as an introduction to this part which revealed all the complexity of human relations.

What most affected me was that in this part Durrell really hit one and true love b...more
John David
In this, the third volume of Durrell’s “The Alexandria Quartet,” the narrative shift focuses, this time to Mountolive, a character who has perhaps more in common with the real-life Durrell than even Darley, who narrated both volume I (“Justine”) and will narrate volume IV (“Clea”). Both Durrell and Mountolive were born in India and later joined the Foreign Service abroad.

In this “sibling companion” to the other volumes, we find both more growing political intrigue and romantic machination. Just...more
Five stars for language, three stars for narrative choices which disappointed profoundly.
In the words of Balthazar, "Truth naked and unashamed. That's a splendid phrase. But we always see her as she seems, never as she is. Each man has his own interpretation."
How true this has proven in the first two novels, and indeed is still borne out in the characteristic epistolary passages that abound throughout Mountolive.
As a 'sibling' to Justine and Balthazar, I had my heart set on Mountolive being a...more
Mountolive is the third novel in Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. It is far more linear in plot than its two predecessors. David Mountolive is a British diplomat not mentioned at all in Justine and only alluded to in Balthazar. The action begins much before the events of the first two novels, occurring when Nessim is hardly out of his teens, a time when Mountolive was first in Egypt studying Arabic and became the lover of Nessim’s mother Leila, herself much older than Mountolive. David leaves Egypt...more
Durrell's Alexandria Quartet is like a kaleidoscope, always refracting his characters and story in each succeeding book. In Mountolive, the third volume, the sense of political intrigue that began in Balthazar takes on an even deeper character. Mountolive is a young British diplomat in training when he meets Leila, who takes him as a lover on the advice of her crippled husband.

As we know already from Justine, Leila is mother to Nessim, Justine's husband. Now we learn that both women take lovers...more
Aug 21, 2010 Angie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Angie by: Robert
A wonderful book. Once again, lush and evocative language of exotic locations and complex, passionate characters. I enjoyed the contrast of Mountolive's very 'Englishness' to the free-thinking, sophisticated inhabitants of Alexandria: Nessim, Justine, Balthazar, Clea and the others in their social circle of foreign officials, writers, artists and spies living through a sultry undercurrent of political and religious unrest.

Towards the end came a crescendo of impending doom (then a violent close)...more
Bradley Cannon
In the beginning, I almost didn't give this book a fifth star, if only because the new perspective almost threw me from my seat. I will not spoil it because the transition is one that a reader should experience on his or her own. However, in hindsight, I adore the idea. Durrell throws certain hints around, but he never does fully explain why he took such drastic change in Mountolive. Certainly not in the way he explained the purpose of Balthazar from the very beginning. Whatever he is up to, I h...more
MOUNTOLIVE. (1958; U.S. 1961). Lawrence Durrell. ****
This is the third installment in Durrell’s “Alexandria Quartet,” and much more accessable that the last one. This novel is told through the eyes of Mountolive, the member of the Foreign Service, based, ultimately, in Egypt. It is written in the third person so that the author has much more flexibility in telling his tale. It is still the same story, but it concentrates primarily on the love affair of Mountolive with Leila and his subsequent r...more
Mountolive is the third installment of the Alexandria Quartet, and it was by far my favorite of the four novels. I believe I liked the change of pace, from dogged introspection through recollections, to something more akin to a “roman de moeurs”. I also could not resist the elements of political intrigue, the complex canvas of betrayals that occur throughout the novel and one of my favorite themes, the notion of forbidden love. All throughout the novels, taboos are being brushed against; and we...more
Mountolive is a bizarre departure from the first two books of this series. Instead of being narrated in the frantic first person, we get a mostly omniscient, mostly sober narrator connected to David Mountolive, a British diplomat of dubious skill.

More of the doomed Pursewarden and Narouz, my two favorite characters from the last book. Near the end, Mountolive gets back in touch with the "authentic" Egypt he believes he's lost and the descriptions are amazing, then horrifying. The last couple do...more
Lawrence Durrell's third novel in his Alexander Quartet is larger and more political in scope than its predecessors. This time the narrative is focused on a British diplomat named Mountolive who has been stationed in Egypt. He has an affair with the mother of Nessim and Narouz, and the action takes us back to the original collection of characters from Justine after several years of build-up. Mountolive is a work that grounds Durrell's foot firmly into the cultural and historical framework of his...more
Darya Conmigo
I have just turned the last page of Mountolive. It is hard to say what I will think of this novel later (I know my impressions can be subject to drastic change over time). But for right now I just wanted to register this feeling of utter emptiness, of being shattered to the core because everything came together for once. That moment when the big glass wall is about to fall down in a thousand little pieces. That truth. That.

And I thought of all the four books this was going to be the boring one....more
The third book, this one written in the third person, brings the Alexandria Quartet into full political-thriller status. To the same plot, the same events of the previous two books, Durrell adds more layers to this huge canvas stroke by stroke, using his trademark vivid pigments. But I must admit: the excessive length of some of the descriptive passages tries my patience.

The book’s title is one of the main characters. Mountolive is the newly appointed British ambassador who has old ties to the l...more
Second read -- after forty years. See review of The Alexandria Quartet , one of my favorite books (actually four books).
I liked this better than Balthazar but not so much as Justine. Durrell has a great ear - his prose is always mellifluous and usually precise. Because, unlike the other three novels in the Quartet, Mountolive is told, not from the point of view of the hapless English teacher Darley, but from that of an omniscient third-person narrator, the Milleresque flights of lyrical fancy are somewhat restrained - I must say, if I ever get to Alexandria myself, I will be keenly disappointed if the sky is just...more
I'm sure I'd have a different view and understanding of this book had I had read the Alexandria Quartet in its entirety or at least read the books that come before it, but "Mountolive" is the only book out of the four that I've read and it actually works well as a standalone novel given Durrel's approach to the Quartet, an approach rooted in Einstein's 4 dimensions theory. The Quartet as a whole is an exploration of relativity and subject-object relation; the first 3 books are about the same set...more
The Alexandria Quartet continues to impress in its third volume. "Mountolive" is the toughest of the three books thus far, since the lead character's impersonal approach to the people of Alexandria comes close to being xenophobic and elitist at times (Durrell or Mountolive, I'm not sure). Yet it's also the most personal. For most of the book, we're directly with the character at its centre (unlike "Justine" or "Balthazar"), allowing us an unhindered look into the journey of one man. The book als...more
Deborah Palmer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 11, 2013 Alan rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Those who know their duty and who can perform it without shrinking
Recommended to Alan by: Clayton W.; previous and subsequent work; the Paradox Book Store in Wheeling, WV
Mountolive. Not a place, as I'd assumed at first—though it would make a lovely name for an estate, wouldn't it? Perhaps on a windswept hillside in Greece... but here it's the name of a man. David Mountolive, whose appearances were but brief and elusive in Justine and Balthazar, here takes center stage.

As Mountolive opens—much earlier in time than the first two volumes of Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet—David is but a callow and very junior attaché in the British Foreign Service, who has be...more
Mountolive is book 3 in Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and it took on quite a different perspective from Justine (my review here) and Balthazar (my review here). This novel is from the viewpoint of Mountolive, a young English politician sent to a post in Alexandria.

I found Mountolive's story to be the most interesting and certainly the most political. It puts the true actions and happenings of the first two novels of the Alexandrian Quartet into sharp view. The reader finally begins to pi...more
Alexandria Quartet part III. The perspective has shifted to 3rd person omniscient, so we now see the same fascinating characters in a more objective light. But knowing more of the facts of the story may not really help us understand the players, so this is the volume for plot lovers, and indeed there is some nice political intrigue going on, say no more.

And we finally discover the name of the "anonymous" narrator in Irish teacher named Darley who wrote compelling prose but got a lot...more
Elyce Wakerman
This volume is certainly the most approachable of the three Quartet novels I have recently completed reading (re-reading, actually, for I visited Alexandria in my twenties, perhaps the best age to do so). Chronology is for the most part straight-forward, and the third-person narration affords a deeper understanding of the myriad, and oh so duplicitous, relationships. Still a number of unanswered questions - and so it is on to Clea.

To be honest, I did not expect it to like it much. I read the first books of the quartet at least two years ago and I remember little about them but the gist and that I had found them slow.

No one can say "Mountolive" is fast-paced, but it does manage to capture and develop the political and religious unrest in a very compelling way. I also think that having the other POVs (the ones in Justine's and Balthazar) starts to pay off here, where things get much clearer and where the plot does not seem...more
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Born in Jalandhar, British India, in 1912 to Indian-born British colonials, Lawrence Durrell was a critically hailed and beloved novelist, poet, humorist, and travel writer best known for the Alexandria Quartet novels, which were ranked by the Modern Library as among the greatest works of English literature in the twentieth century. A passionate and dedicated writer from an early age, Durrell’s pr...more
More about Lawrence Durrell...
The Alexandria Quartet  (The Alexandria Quartet #1-4) Justine Balthazar (The Alexandria Quartet, #2) Clea (The Alexandria Quartet, #4) Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

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“Balthazar sighed and said "Truth naked and unashamed. That's a splendid phrase. But we always see her as she seems, never as she is. Each man has his own interpretation.” 2 likes
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