The Egyptian city of Alexandria once boasted the world's greatest library, home to scholars dedicated solely to the pursuit of knowledge. But on the eve of World War II, the obsessed characters in this mesmerizing novel find that their pursuits lead only to bedrooms in which each seeks to know-and possess-the other.
About the Author
Lawrence Durrell was born in 1912 in India. He attended the Jesuit College at Darjeeling and St. Edmund's School, Canterbury. His first literary work, The Black Book, appeared in Paris in 1938. His first collection of poems, A Private Country, was published in 1943, followed by the three Island books: Prospero's Cell; Reflections on a Marine Venus, about Rhodes; and Bitter Lemons, his account of life in Cyprus. Durrell's wartime sojourn in Egypt led to his masterpiece, The Alexandria Quartet, which he completed in southern France, where he settled permanently in 1957. Between the quartet and The Avignon Quintet he wrote the two-decker Tunc and Nunquam. His oeuvre includes plays, a book of criticism, translations, travel writing, and humorous stories about the diplomatic corps. Caesar's Vast Ghost, his reflections on the history and culture of Provence, including a late flowering of poems, was published a few days before his death in Sommières in 1990.
Robert Ryan has written and illustrated several books including: Justine, This Is For You, and A Sky Full Of Kindness. Ryan was born in 1962 in Akrotiri, Cyprus. He studied fine art at Trent Polytechnic before he went on to specialize in printmaking at the Royal College of Art in London. In addition to fine art, he works in the mediums of ceramics, textiles, homewares, and jewelry. His work has been exhibited widely across the UK and internationally. He lives and works in London.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I came across it browsing at the library. I had never heard of it, or its author. Had I browsed left toward Dumas instead of right toward Ellison, I may never have discovered Justine. Seldom has a book so intrigued me with its language, flavor, earthiness. By its juxtaposition of intimate detail and vague half-thoughts, the novel builds a mystery in its own world. I was hooked, to the point that I read straight through Justine, then on to her three sister novels Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea, which altogether make up Lawrence Durrell’s atmospheric saga The Alexandria Quartet. Set in pre- and post-World War II Alexandria, Durrell created one of the more existential works around. Much, perhaps, of his close friend Henry Miller, of Camus, of D.H. Lawrence, wanders through its pages, but Durrell colonized a new literary frontier of his own. And when his prose is waxed and polished, which is most of the time, it is stunning. Now, if you want to read the entire Quartet, be sure you read in the above order, the order in which they were written. The third volume, Mountolive, unlike its two elder sisters, is written in the third person, so it doesn’t grip your shirtfront and pull you into the story with the same intensity. I generally prefer the third person, but as you will see, Durrell’s first person narrative of Justine, et al., is true artistry. Mountolive is a very good book, and it advances the mystery effectively. But you’re almost led to speculate that Durrell brought in James Michener or Leon Uris to write his third part, so that he could take a well-deserved break from the understandable emotional toll of Justine and Balthazar (written in roughly a year or less), and prepare for the climax of Clea.