68. THE LOVER, BY MARGUERITE DURAS
I can’t remember who recommended this to me. Yes, I know, very rude of me; I should have kept a list, or something. If you’re reading this, I’m very sorry. Feel free to let me know who you are so I can apologize properly. The recommendation was very much appreciated, though.
Synopsis: A young French girl in pre-war Indochina, poor and with a very turbulent family life, has an affair with an older, rich, Chinese man.
Overall enjoyment: It was very well written, but very weird. It’s definitely not romance. (It’s also not erotica, I’m baffled as to why it is so often classified as that.) I have to say I did like it, but it’s not one of those books you “like” like. It’s not a very happy read.
Plot: It’s a bit difficult to follow sometimes. She shifts perspective constantly, jumps forwards and back in time wildly, goes from first person to third and even second without any warning. But this book is really not about the plot.
Characters: It is difficult not to compare Marguerite with the protagonist of this story. Their lives seem almost identical. In fact, I believe there are lots of people who believe this story is autobiographical. The characters sure are vivid enough to be real.
World/setting: Indochina, before it became Vietnam. It is a very important factor in the narrative; the people, the culture, the society, even the nature and climate play a big part on the developments.
Writing style: It’s like a stream of consciousness. I don’t usually like those very much, but this one was very well done. It has a very nice fluidity and speaks volumes about what is left unsaid.
Representation: Pretty fair. She includes the natives and her lover, who are all Asian, and she, herself, admits to being bisexual (though, of course, not in so many words).
Political correctness: It’s interesting to see how she portrays privilege in this. The protagonist may be very poor, wearing second-hand clothes and eating refuse, but she’s still considered by everybody (including herself) as better than her lover simply because she’s white and he’s Chinese. The account of the dynamic in her family is very dark and disturbing, touching many issues. A very interesting book, well worth the read.
Up next: Apple Tree Yard, by Louise Doughty