Tony's Reviews > Justine

Justine by Lawrence Durrell
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's review
Oct 19, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream

Durrell, Lawrence. JUSTINE. (1957). ****. I remember trying to read this book when it first came out; when I was a freshman in college. I didn’t make it through. When the Folio Society came out recently with a new edition, I bought it. That makes you want to go the extra mile for a book. The narrator, presumably the author since he is never named, lays the groundwork for what were to become the succeeding three novels that comprise “The Alexandria Quartet.” The narrator, who is also one of the main characters, is an ex-pat living in Alexandria, Egypt. In the novel, he is a teacher with a hobby of painting. The author was a painter, also, and this fact becomes clear when you are reading the book: the city and its inhabitants are described with an artist’s eye. The book becomes almost a travelogue with story attached. The narrator lives with a woman, Melissa, of whom he is tiring – especially after he meets Justine, the wife of Nessim, a wealthy financial maven in the city. He and Justine are attracted to each other mentally and sexually, though they both try and destroy the relationship in order to save it. The quartet that is formed of the narrator (he is once called Lawrence) and Melissa, and Justine and Nessim, forms the heart of the novel, and we watch the interplay among them. We are also introduced to Clea and Balthazar, who will have their own books later on. The poetic prose used by the author is mesmerizing, and you cannot skip one word or else you lose the thread of the written thoughts. Obviously, I will be on to the next three novels in due time. Recommended.

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