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Justine (A Virago V) [Paperback]

Alice Thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

10 April 1997 A Virago V
The tale of a man's obsession with a woman, or is it two women? Justine has a twin sister, and the narrator is increasingly unsure as to the real identity of the woman he desires. Alluding to the Marquis de Sade's work of the same name, the novel explores the line between imagination and reality.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (10 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860493068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860493065
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.6 x 1.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 590,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Gripping. (DAILY TELEGRAPH)

About the Author

Alice Thompson was born and brought up in Edinburgh. She read English at Oxford and then toured the world in the pop group, The Woodentops. Her novella, KILLING TIME, was published by Penguin in 1991. In 1995 she completed a PhD on Henry James and became Writer in Residence for Shetland. She is now writer in residence for St Andrew's University.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous, Decadent . . and wise. 8 Feb 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This astonishing first novel tells the tale of an opium smoking aesthete's obsessive desire and pursuit of a mysterious femme fatale through the streets of contemporary London. The style is fabulously rich and dreamy, evoking Huysmans and the 1890s as much as the 1990s. The references to De Sade are overt, but Sadegh Hedayat's legendary cult novel 'The Blind Owl' also seems a likely influence.
The plot is an intriguing puzzle that opens out beyond mere tricksiness into a deadly accurate study of the nature of male infatuation. So accurate that it was initially a surprise that a woman writer should understand these things so precisely - but then, who better?
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AN INTERESTING, GENTLY EROTIC MYSTERY 7 Jun 2002
By Larry L. Looney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I discovered Alice Thompson's JUSTINE quite by accident -- and I'm rather glad I did. I was put off at first when I read about its relation to DeSade's writings -- I didn't really want to read a re-hash of that. Upon further inspection, I decided to give it a try.
It's not one of the best books I've read in the last year, but I thought it was quite well-written and interesting. The narrator was just odd enough (in an English way [no offense to you UK residents!]) to make him slightly endearing, even with his rampant obsessive qualities. Without giving away the outcome, I'll add that I suspected what it would be -- but I didn't feel this detracted much from the suspense of the story.
There is quite a bit of eroticism at play here -- but it's understated and subtle, not overt. Those readers who might shy away from something labelled 'erotic', thinking to avoid soft-core (or worse) pornography need not be concerned. The erotic/sexual content of the novel is tasteful and not given to over-wrought, photo-like descriptions -- Thompson has exercised subtlety and taste here.
I didn't notice that the author was a member of the Woodentops until I was well into the book -- it's nice to see someone who has had some success in one artistic genre branching out into another, exercising her talents and imagination.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious and underachieving 12 July 2001
By A. Whitney - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I must admit that I have not read any of de Sade's works, so my review may be colored by that fact. However, I felt that the narrator's voice was tiresome and uninteresting. His take on being an appreciator of beauty wore thin on me. Even with a mild deformity, he was uninteresting. I figured out the story line ahead of time and felt nothing about any of the characters. I wasn't expecting an erotic novel, but I was hoping to get what the book jacket advertised, "the wit of Wilde, the sublimity of Poe." It didn't even come close. Save your money or look elsewhere for something more engaging. Sorry.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting 17 Jun 2000
By Lotan Sharon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Justine, by Alice Thompson, is a very interesting read. I especially liked the way reality and fantasy are interwined and can hardly be separated. It was a very nice book, though I'm sure my reading it in a Hebrew translation has flawed it's charm. But even in translation, the writing is very flowing and it was simply impossible to put the book down (though I did have a test to study to, at the time). All and all, a very recomended book for th lovers of good fiction.
4.0 out of 5 stars A suspenseful twist on the Pygmalion myth 7 April 2014
By Steven Davis - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
"The style in which my flat is decorated gives everything away about me." The unnamed narrator of Justine tells us in the novel's very first sentence that he puts faith in appearances, and he values beauty above all things. So did his mother, who has just killed herself in despair as the first ravages of age have marked her face. At his mother's funeral the narrator briefly encounters a stunningly beautiful woman named Justine. Her aloof and secretive manner adds to his instant fascination, and he becomes obsessed with Justine, longing to possess her, haunting the streets of London looking for her.

By chance he comes upon this mysterious woman in an art gallery, only her demeanor is somehow different: careless, outgoing, and unfashionable. She soon tells him that her name is Juliette, and he has mistaken her for her twin sister Justine. He sets about seducing Juliette as a way to get to Justine.

Justine and Juliette are archetypal characters from the novels of the same names by the Marquis de Sade. Sade's Justine is virtuous, virginal (or at least she tries to be), and vulnerable. His Juliette, her sister, is lustful, amoral and predatory. Similarly the two sisters in the modern novel are mirror images, as different in personality as they are alike in physical appearance. Or so, at least, our narrator fantasizes.

The two elusive women haunt the narrator, in his dreams and opium-fueled hallucinations as well as in reality. His obsessive desire for Justine drives him through days of despair to violent and desperate acts. Eventually neither he nor the reader knows what is real and what is not, and he becomes a prisoner of his own delusions.

"All along, I had assumed that I had been bringing her into my world, so that I could put her in a glass case, a private exhibition of her that I could let out at my delectation to taste her sweet flesh," he writes. "I had been tricked by the beautiful object that I had sought to possess. She had had her own thoughts and desires that had manipulated me."

Justine later asserts, "I did nothing but present my image to you. Your obsession decided on a reality of its own. And ignored mine."

This is a Pygmalion story where a feminist Galatea refuses to be sculpted, and instead reshapes the sculptor. It is a gripping tale of suspense that combines the gothic, the erotic and the surreal. Justine won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1996.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Since Mishima! 27 Sep 2006
By Lily Bart - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Not since Yukio Mishima has a modern writer celebrated a world of blood and night and death that fairly pulsates with such dark, sexual glamor!

The hero of our story is rich, cruel, spoiled, and decadent. His life passes in languid self-indulgence, buying fancy paintings and lying around the flat smoking opium. Then one day he catches sight of a stunning woman named Justine. By an amazing coincidence, she happens to look just like the girl in his favorite picture. Our hero believes that only art can make beauty last forever, and that sex with Justine will be even more exciting than lying around the house and smoking opium in a room full of beautiful paintings!

Almost by magic, our hero transforms from a slack-jawed dilettante to a tough private eye, prowling the mean streets of London in search of a golden haired temptress named Justine. But a chance encounter at a humble hamburger stand pushes him towards Justine's twin sister, Juliette. Juliette tricks him into a castle full of torture devices, where our hero . . . oh, but I can't go on. Read this magnificently decadent feast of sexual titillation for yourself!
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