The Lover

“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras (France)

Synopsis and Review

“The Lover”: allusive and powerful 

Winner of the Prix Goncourt in 1984, “The Lover” is set in 1930s Saigon in what was the French colony of Indochina. It is a fictional recollection of the time in the author’s life when, at fifteen and a half, she meets the elegant son of a wealthy Chinese family, who is twelve years her senior. They become lovers, locked into a private world of passion and intensity that defies all the conventions of their society.

Most members of the Book Club read the book twice and enjoyed it more the second time, than the first (it’s only 116 pages!). They found the story allusive with many powerful images. The descriptions both of Saigon and of different scenes involving the main protagonists brought them clearly to life adding to the reader’s enjoyment. Readers noted the lovers’ meeting, the description of the girl’s home life and a restaurant scene with the lover and her family as especially vivid. The family problems experienced by the author were a strong undercurrent of the story, though not clearly understood, as were the different issues related to life in a colony. Readers liked the style and structure of the book, where from one section to the next the author jumps from one moment in the past to another. However, they were somewhat disconcerted by her use of the first and third person when narrating herself. One member was put off by the author’s seeming detachment from life and another questioned her motives and whether her judgment of the other characters could be relied on. The book averaged 7 out of 10.

The theme this season is “From Book To Film”. The film adaptation, made in 1992, was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1993. Nearly everyone liked the film, finding the visuals especially beautiful. They thought the film was well crafted, and most found the sex scenes powerful and well done. Some found that other scenes were too implicit and that, after having read the book, it seemed that the director was trying to simplify things by spelling them out too much. Overall, they would recommend reading the book and seeing the film more than once as they felt that both became more enjoyable after a second reading/viewing.

Nicola’s Book Club reading list

Season 4 – “From Book To Film” (Sep 2006 – Jan 2007)

“Tsotsi” by Athol Fugard (South Africa) *
“Like Water for Chocolate” by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
“Oscar and Lucinda” by Peter Carey (Australia)
“The Lover” by Marguerite Duras (France)
“City of God” by Paulo Lins (Brazil)

* The book club favourite
In italics, Nicola’s Coup de Cœur

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