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The Lover Paperback – September 8, 1998

3.9 out of 5 stars 174 customer reviews

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Paperback, September 8, 1998
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Editorial Reviews


"Powerful, authentic, completely successful . . . perfect."
The New York Times Book Review

“An exquisite jewel of a novel, as multifaceted as a diamond, as seamless and polished as a pearl.”
Boston Herald
“A vivid, lingering novel . . . a brilliant work of art.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1st Pantheon paperback ed edition (September 8, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375700528
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375700521
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Lover by Marquerite Duras is a well written book, structured like dreams and memories rather than a chronological or logical sequence of events and impressions. The book is short, a little over a 100 pages, and is written in short impressionistic paragraphs that move from present to various days in the past.

A French family in Indochina is reduced to working-poor status due to the death of the father and the mother's attempts to maintain the family while working as a school administrator. Yet this family if full of tensions since the mother favors the worthless older brother at the expense of the middle-child sister and younger brother. This mother barely can keep food on the table while trying to rescue the older son from debts, fights, and other problems. This allows the daughter to grow up too fast, acting as the mother for the emotionally neglected younger brother. The young woman sometimes is the narrarator and sometimes the story is told in third person. Duras pulls this off with ease.

What happens to girls that are forced to grow up too fast? This is really the theme of this wonderful book. For girls that are put in this position make bad choices and are exposed to too much adult pain too soon. Living in a boarding school with little supervision, she wears make-up too soon and dresses provocatively too soon. Duras hints that the young woman, though still a virgin, is contemplating prostitution. Wearing her mother's tight rust colored silk dress, with gold lame high heels, and a floppy man's hat, she is spotted by the son of a Chinese millionare. This man is 12 years older than she, making her 15 and thus making him 27. Their affair begins with her first act of intercourse. She is so nieve that she is surprised that she bleeds when penetrated.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in one day. This was my first introduction to Duras. What an incredible story! Her writing is like poetry, like a song, filled with lyrical descriptions of her surroundings as well as her feelings, filled with gorgeous imagery and constant forshadowing towards the demise of her own family.
The story itself would be totally unacceptable by today's (or the entire 20th century's) standards, being that of an illicit love affair, set in prewar Indochina (today's Vietnam) between a 15-year-old French girl and a 27-year-old Chinese son of a millionaire. However, it is what it is, it happened, and the way the story is told is beautiful and impassioned.
What's most amazing here is the evolution of the girl's psyche. In many ways, she was obviously mature way beyond her years, fatalistic and dark, all brought on by the loneliness and frustration of life with her mother and brothers. At the same time, she was naive in the sense that she thought she was strong enough to handle this affair without falling in love. The girl tried to convince herself that money was the only objective in this affair (when in fact, money was the only reason why her mother(!) allowed her to continue see her lover--ouch!).
Duras' writing reminds me of that of Maxine Hong Kingston's (or is it vice versa?). Many thoughts are repeated throughout the pages, like refrains or choruses. She switches the narrative from first to third person. She switches time frames from past to present and back again. It's as if the whole novel was written completely stream-of-consciousness, or possibly a parallel to the unpredictable horrors of her own mother's madness.
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Format: Paperback
THE LOVER by Marguerite Duras, which was an international best seller and winner of the Prix Goncourt in France, tells the story of a young French girl growing up in Indochina in the 1930s and her affair with the son of a Chinese millionaire. She does not love him and his father refuses to allow them to stay together because she is white, but, to me, the love story, while serving as the reason for the story, is not the central focus. More riveting, I found was the emotional violence of the narrator's family life and the style in which it is written.

The book is written expertly and experimentally in a way that moves like a recollecting mind among ideas, images and themes. At first this is disorienting to the reader, but it begins to feel very natural very quickly, because I think the style effectively mimics the way the mind flows back over our past. Duras wrote the reputedly semi-autobiographical book over four months in 1984 when she was nearly seventy years old.

The passages on the life of her family are tragic and, as I said, emotionally very violent. The nameless French narrator grows up with a poor mother who is a school mistress in Indochina and her two brothers. The elder brother seems to be incredibly self involved and coddled by their mother, but the younger siblings are afraid of him. Duras recounts his actions with a distance that makes his behaviors more frightening, and he emerges as a central force of the book.

The small book, a little over 100 pages, is hard to forget. It so well mimics the process of the mind, it begins to feel as if it is one's own memories, mined from all the connections thoughts seek to make when we look back to a time long past that won't let us go.
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