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Mountolive (Alexandria Quartet #3)

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,686 Ratings  ·  116 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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Jan 31, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Ian Grayejoy
Past Diplomacy

When I was in secondary school, one of Gerald Durrell's books was all the rage. It might even have been on the syllabus. Looking through his bibliography, the only one I can think it might have been is "Beasts in My Belfry". It wasn't particularly demanding, so my English master (who was also the librarian) suggested that I would enjoy his brother, Lawrence. Thus it came to be that I read, first, "White Eagles over Serbia" and then "Justine".

While the latter began a passion that ha
Jun 17, 2014 Ahmed rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
شكرا دار الشروق . حقيقى شكرا
والشكر الأكبر لفخرى لبيب (المترجم)
شكر صادق نابع من قلب قارئ قلما ينجح شئ غير القراءة فى إسعاده.
شكرا انكم قدمت عمل بهذا الابداع رغم انه مجرد الجزء الثالث من الرباعيه.
ان تقرأ عن مجتمعك بعيون غريبه عنه لتتحدث عنه فهذا شئ مفيد جدا
وممتع فى نفس الوقت.
فى هذا الجزء لا تقتصر الاحداث عن الاسكندريه بل تشمل الاشارات القاهرة لتصف لنا مجتمع الاجانب فى كلتا المدينتين.
ورغم أنى أرى الكاتب افاض فى الحديث عن شخصيات العمل (الأجنبيه) على حساب عبقرية المكان نفسه لكن العمل فى المجمل مذهل
Mar 17, 2013 AC rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 24, 2013 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 23, 2015 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The sound of water trickling and of sponges crushing softly upon the body of his brother, seemed part of an entirely new fabric of thought and emotion.

Sorry for any undue disclosures, but I'm attempting to keep my stride, however flailing and gurgling, towards the conclusion. A reddened, sweaty review of the Quartet is to follow.
Simon Mcleish
Feb 25, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
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
Nate D
Aug 03, 2009 Nate D rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2009, britain
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
Jun 12, 2012 Tamara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

Really 4.5 stars, if not more.

Hard to rate as this book builds on the previous two in the quartet, so while I enjoyed this immensely I'm not sure I would've to the same extent if I'd read it as a stand alone. Within the context of the quartet though, it is probably the best one yet. It's more straight forward and doesn't seem to be as filtered through the eyes of the narrator so I felt more confident that I was at last getting to the heart and truth of things. It was excellent, adding layers and
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
Aug 21, 2010 Angie rated it it was amazing  ·  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)
Dec 12, 2011 Isabelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

2.5 stars

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 I 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 wanted - so long as I didn't get out again.

I hope th
Apr 24, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Peter Brooks
May 17, 2012 Peter Brooks rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2015 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the great virtues of the Alexandria Quartet is its ability to describe the cosmopolitan joie de vivre of a Mediterranean port city--which most certainly includes its vices, class system and heroic assemblage of often less than savory characters.
I say heroic because the old Mediterranean ports where a collage of just about anyone, gainfully employed or forced to work, found a place in this world. It was a world that was brazenly materialistic yet religion was a cornerstone, Morals depended
Jeffrey Franklin Barken
Mountolive is by far my favorite in the quartet so far. I agree, this is the nail holding these books together. In many ways the mustachioed British diplomat David Mountolive, is the most-developed character in the series. By relating his experiences in the close 3rd person, the rest of the characters come into focus. Finally we get Darley's role summed up in a one liner, and Justine's nymphomania is complicated by her complicity in Nessim's plot to run guns to Palestine in support of the Zionis ...more
Dec 13, 2015 Jules rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bloody fallout 4 is slowing down my reading challenge progress. Anyway, best of the series without a doubt. An uncovering of political agendas molding and destroying the love affairs that began in Justine. As much as this entry is about politics, it's also as much about loss. By the end of the book the main characters have lost just about everything they've put on the table to gamble. (view spoiler) ...more
Dale Pobega
Sep 24, 2014 Dale Pobega rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The scenes in this novel are brimming with beauty - and grotesqueness - as you suddenly recall their brief mention or unexpectedly come across them more fully realised in one of the other instalments. I love Durrell's narrative approach throughout the quartet - events hinted at or described in a few lines in one novel, taken and expanded upon in another. "Mountolive" is by far the most straightforward and accessible - a good place to start reading the entire opus? (I'm unsure if starting with "J ...more
John David
Jan 08, 2013 John David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Jan 26, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bradley Cannon
Jul 30, 2013 Bradley Cannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 10, 2012 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
As many people seem to vouch for Mountolive as the finest of the Alexandria Quartet, I honestly felt it rather less than either Justine or Balthazar. Yes, it was more straightforward, and yes, it had some moments, but I like Durrell best when he's being poetic and tying more string on to the ball rather than when he's trying to unravel it. There are the high moments (Pursewarden's suicide note!), but I'm hoping that when I read Clea, it will be a return to the Durrell I came to know and love.
Jun 05, 2011 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 23, 2015 Francisco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novela, ingleses
Tercera parte de este cuarteto de voces que de manera magistral nos arrastra hasta un territorio situado entre el recuerdo y el sueño... aunque a veces, ese sueño se transforma en una pesadilla.
En un juego de dobles espejos, descubrimos las motivaciones del matrimonio de Nessim y Justine, la causa del suicidio de Pursewarden, y tramas que no se habían vislumbrado en las novelas anteriores.
La narración es todo un ejemplo de pulso, control y gestión de las tramas, ampliando el repertorio de figura
Oct 06, 2008 Mr. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 25, 2015 Sinem rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Aslında son kitabı görmeden beş yıldız vermemek mi gerekirdi bilmiyorum ama şimdiye kadarki kitapların en iyisiydi. Olaylar netleşti daha ziyade derinleşti sanki.
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Lawrence George 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 prolific career also included the groundbreaking Avignon Quintet, whose ...more
More about Lawrence Durrell...

Other Books in the Series

Alexandria Quartet (4 books)
  • Justine (The Alexandria Quartet, #1)
  • Balthazar (The Alexandria Quartet, #2)
  • Clea (The Alexandria Quartet, #4)

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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.” 4 likes
“Is it any wonder that I absent-mindedly take the entrance marked Aliens Only whenever I enter?” 0 likes
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