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Climates [Paperback]

Andre Maurois , Adriana Hunter
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 4, 2012
Written in 1928 by French biographer and novelist Andre Maurois, Climates became a best seller in France and all over Europe. The first 100,000 copies printed of its Russian translation sold out the day they appeared in Moscow bookstores. This magnificently written novel about a double conjugal failure is imbued with subtle yet profound psychological insights of a caliber that arguably rivals Tolstoy's. Here Phillipe Marcenat, an erudite yet conventional industrialist from central France, falls madly in love with and marries the beautiful but unreliable Odile despite his family's disapproval. Soon, Phillipe's possessiveness and jealousy drive her away. Brokenhearted, Phillipe then marries the devoted and sincere Isabelle and promptly inflicts on his new wife the very same woes he endured at the hands of Odile. But Isabelle's integrity and determination to save her marriage adds yet another dimension to this extraordinary work on the dynamics and vicissitudes of love.

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2012: Imagine (remember?) being a 14-year-old obsessed with understanding romantic love. You would have swooned for Climates, a beloved 1928 French best seller, newly translated. A novel about two marriages--one in which an insecure man drives away his ethereal (and probably crazy) wife, the other in which the same man subjects his loyal new wife to the kind of emotional torture he previously endured--it’s a kind of old-fashioned parable full of dramatic prose. (The beginning of the marital breakdown is described as “a fine crack [sent] through the transparent crystal of my love.”) But don’t dismiss this delightful novel by “André Maurois,” the pseudonym for French historian Émile Herzog, as simply camp; it is strangely wise about a specific culture and time, as well as about the universal affairs of the heart. --Sara Nelson


"Stripped of its period shading, this is a sad and timeless tale of women on pedestals and the pain of loving not wisely, but too well."—Kirkus Review

"This lucid new translation of a novel originally published in 1928 probes the timeless complications, betrayals, and fascinations wrought by love...With Sarah Bakewell’s (How to Live) introduction providing historical context and insight into the autobiographical nature of Maurois’s material, this new edition of Climates marks a valuable reintroduction to a neglected master.—Publishers Weekly

"The book’s...aphoristic philosophy is timeless."—New York Times

"Climates' prose affects a restrained elegance...which retains its period's aura...At the same time, its gentle rhythm allows Maurois' many insights to pop throughout like tiny bombs."—San Francisco Chronicle

" orderly yet unsettling. It breathes an air that is profoundly civilized, but there is something violent and shattering about it, too. 'Even when it’s mutual, love is terrible,' says Philippe. It is terrible simply to be human—and there can be no subject more interesting to write about, or more beautiful, than that."—The New Yorker

"Climates is a delicious romantic bonbon that yanks the heartstrings."—Wall Street Journal

"A beautiful and heartbreaking novel of two marriages and the fractures endured by both...In this new translation, its penetrating examination of the psychology of love is made vivid for a new generation."—Granta

"An irresistible, micro-Proustian novel about a jealous husband and the woman who tries to save him."—Paris Review

"This new translation by Adriana Hunter fully captures the elegance and frivolity of its era. It artfully preserves timeless questions about the nature of love, too. Marcenat['s] for the right “climate” for love shows the approach to be just as problematic nearly a century later."—The Daily Beast

The stark truth of human nature paired with the romantic notion of love makes this story a whirlwind of happiness and tragedy."—

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Other Press (December 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590515382
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590515389
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #204,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Perspectives on love December 6, 2012
The nature of love and the different ways in which men and women experience it are at the heart of Climates. As a young Frenchman in the early years of the twentieth century, Philippe Marcenat's opinion of women is divided: he admires the female form but feels contempt for the female mind. Desire leads to boredom that can be overcome only by embarking on another conquest. He tells himself that he is searching for the "perfect, almost divine creature" he has imagined since his boyhood, but he finds true love only in the characters of the fiction he devours. Climates is the story of Philippe's relationships with three women -- women he loves in very different ways, and who influence his understanding of love.

Philippe's philandering life changes when he meets Odile Malet in Florence. Odile removes him from his "solitary meditation," makes him take note of the colorful world that surrounds him. It is only after they are married that a crack forms in the "transparent crystal" of Philippe's love. He discovers that Odile has a streak of independence. She lives in the moment, he lives mostly in the past, and they have the usual quarrels about which of them needs to change to accommodate the other's needs. Yet even after Odile gives Philippe good reason to think ill of her, he can form only positive thoughts of "her charm, her mysterious melancholy, her profound childishness."

The novel's second half shifts point of view from Philippe to Isabel, the woman Philippe marries long after losing Odile. Whether due to the change of perspective or because of his experience with Odile, we see a very different Philippe. He has no patience for "superficial sentimentality." While he doted on Odile, he is distant from Isabel.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Philippe Marcenat, main character in this 1928 novel, newly translated by Sarah Bakewell, is writing a journal trying to explain to his second wife, Isabelle, his devastating past life with Odile, his first wife. He believes that if the quiet and accommodating Isabelle can only understand his life with the vivacious and exciting Odile, that Isabelle will be even more understanding of his thoughtless behavior during their own marriage. Starting his journal in the years immediately following World War I, Philippe reflects the pomposity and vanity with which he, and others of his time and class often treat the women in their lives. Though he wants to be honest, he is limited by his own attitudes and those of his culture.

Philippe, the son of a successful businessman in the French countryside, responds immediately to the beauty and creativity of Odile, whom he meets in Florence, but she is, unlike him, a woman who expresses her feelings publicly. He is far more repressed. After their marriage Philippe wants her all to himself, quickly growing jealous of her friendships with both men and women. He becomes demanding, and as the marriage deteriorates, he confesses, "I loathed her and adored her. I thought her innocent and guilty." She, in turn, blames him for putting her on a pedestal. "You ask too much of women."

Second wife Isabelle's story begins halfway through the novel. Years have passed since their marriage after World War I, and Philippe has just died. It is at this point that Isabelle begins her own journal. As Isabelle reveals their post-war courtship and marriage from her own point of view, the true nature of the marriage and the respective limitations of the characters become even clearer.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I love and am not loved. I am loved and do not love." December 5, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
In the preface, Maurois is cited with the above quote summarizing this book. Maurois himself had two relationships on which he based Climates. In fact he had his second wife, cruelly as it turns out, type and edit the transcript. In Climates, Phillipe has been raised in a reserved home within which emotions are not freely expressed. As an adult, he falls in love with, and marries, Odille. We would recognize Odille today as a bit of a flower child. In the early 1900's, she is a particular type who craves nature and simplicity. Phillipe gives himself over to her, until his jealousy develops. He is obsessed with her. He is consumed with jealousy. He scarcely knows how to speak with her.

His second marriage to Isabelle is built around his efforts to retrain her in Odille's image. He changes her wardrobe and her taste in reading. He deplores her wish to remain home. She is devoted to him and does all she can to please him. As it happens, this character is modeled after Maurois' second wife, thus the cruelty in her job of transcription.

The novel is written in two parts. The first is Phillipe's writing to Isabelle about his love for Odille, and the second is Isabelle's writing. In it she cites Phillipe's own journal.

Clearly this is a character driven novel. In this he joins the legions of French writers known for their examination of the realities of love. Love after all is the main character. It can be destroyed by jealousy, starved by neglect, or lost in the silence between words. Maurois attempts to be rigorously honest with himself and exposes Phillipe in all his frailties. It is a fascinating exploration of the triumphs and failures of love. Phillipe, Odille, and Isabelle are carefully crafted, and thoroughly revealed. This is a timeless treasure that continues to resonate almost a century later.
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