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The Lover Paperback – September 8, 1998
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"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.”
“A vivid, lingering novel . . . a brilliant work of art.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
Text: English, French (translation)
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She implements both the first and third perspectives in the novel. The first perspective sections are fueled with vehement distaste for her mother and brothers, especially her elder brother. There are a lot of powerful emotions being exhibited with that viewpoint that makes it seems she has a severe complex in regards to her brothers. The third person perspectives takes on a more judgmental aspect, mostly in regards to herself and her provocative nature. She is proud and comfortable with her behavior, but these passages make it seem like her pride is nothing more than a mask of rebellious action against her mother’s biased attitude.
Another element of the book I found to be very delectable was the intimate nature of her telling. Her voice in this story is candid and personal, extremely private in nature, almost as if we are reading portions of a scandalous journal. Here, in this element does Duras’s elegance really come to light. It was exceptionally beautiful.
Her rants do lead to a slower pace here and there throughout the novel, but overall it is a fine piece of literature, as long as you don’t mind the complexities of her style.
Nonetheless the story of a poor French family growing up in Indochina (Vietnam), although short on words, has the power to impact on the reader.
Although told in both first and third person, the little girl is the main narrator and it is her observations and experiences that give flavour to the story. The plot has been described so enough for me to say, although I wasn't overly enthusiastic about the book, I appreciate the writing skills and would recommend to a select group of my friends who enjoy something a little more out of left field.
Never a hello, a good evening, a happy New Year. Never a thank you. Never any talk. Never any need to talk. Everything always silent, distant. It’s a family of stone, petrified so deeply it’s impenetrable. Every day we try to kill one another, to kill. (54)
The emotional information is given via the narrator’s internal monologue. The sentences are carefully put together to build an arc of tension. In the first and second sentences, Duras lists common greetings that have become so familiar they are clichés. Thus the emotional energy is low. Then the tension is raised in the third sentence when we learn that these people never talk, and in the fourth sentence that they don’t need to talk. Sentence five builds on this thought, while sentence six provides a description of this family by using a metaphor that likens it to stone: “It’s a family of stone, petrified so deeply it’s impenetrable.” (54) This metaphor brings other images to mind. Stone is cold, hard, unyielding, inflexible. It explains this family brilliantly. If that were not enough, the next sentence raises the stakes even more: “Every day we try to kill one another, to kill.” (54) The violence of this sentence enacts the emotions powerfully on this page, pulling the reader in. It tells us that silence is habitually used by this family as a weapon to kill. Notice how effectively Duras uses repetition to make her point more powerful. I highly recommend this novel. Five stars.
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If you ever have the opportunity to see the movie, it is fabulous.