I was somewhat taken aback by the volume of this tetralogy, but as I’ve taken on such challenges before and managed to survive, I wasn’t overly concerned…I should have been. Needless to say, I only got through the 1st of 4 and have no intention of returning to the remainders.
A new understanding came to me while I slogged through this tome. I could never understand anyone who didn’t enjoy reading and truly pitied those who struggle to get through a few pages. Reading for me is something I must do and like an addict without a fix, I get nervous without at least 2 items of reading material at the ready. Justine made me struggle, page by nebulous page.
So, here’s The Alexandria Quartet breakdown:
As mentioned, I will be reviewing only the 1st of the 4; Justine.
Set in Alexandria, Egypt over a period of years from the early 1900’s through WWII, Justine is narrated by an unnamed teacher in love with…Justine, a married woman, who remains an enigma throughout. People are cheating, drinking, dying (some, accidentally), and praying.
The narrator gives his perspective as he carries on with Justine and thinks no one is the wiser. This is not a happy man and not so nice, even to the woman he is supposedly in love with.
Justine is reported to be “suffering” from nymphomania which I suppose explains why she sleeps with so many different characters. She too believes she is fooling everyone, or just herself and eventually gets old and fat and settles down on a kibbutz.
Melissa, is a long-suffering dancer and possibly the narrator’s wife or girlfriend (I never got it clear). She does know what is going on, but seems too depressed to do much about it. Oh yeah, she’s also a dancer and dies and not too many people seem too distraught over her death. Probably could have been an interesting character without the martyrdom.
Many more characters I really didn’t care too much for; Balthazar, Nessim, Capodistria, Hamid, Scobie, etc. This book just couldn’t get me, though I tried.
While I’m sure I’d enjoy chatting with Mr. Durrell, I’d have to steer the conversation away from The Alexandria Quartet and perhaps ask about his friendship with Henry Miller. A well-travelled and prolific writer, I’m sure we’d not be at a loss for conversation.
My rating for Justine is a 3 out of 10.
To see the entire list, visit Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels.
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