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The Lover [Hardcover]

Marguerite Duras
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jun 1985
An international best-seller with more than one million copies in print and a winner of France's Prix Goncourt, The Lover has been acclaimed by critics all over the world since its first publication in 1984.

Set in the prewar Indochina of Marguerite Duras's childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. In spare yet luminous prose, Duras evokes life on the margins of Saigon in the waning days of France's colonial empire, and its representation in the passionate relationship between two unforgettable outcasts.

Long unavailable in hardcover, this edition of The Lover includes a new introduction by Maxine Hong Kingston that looks back at Duras's world from an intriguing new perspective--that of a visitor to Vietnam today.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books (Jun 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394545885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394545882
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.2 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 43,990 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


‘Rarely have I read a novel so flawlessly written.’ Spectator

‘Very beautiful, highly intelligent, enjoyable and original.’ Sunday Times

‘Perfect, a 'tour de force'…accessible in the way Thomas Mann’s 'Death in Venice' or D.M. Thomas’s 'The White Hotel' are accessible…dealing successfully with the strong themes of erotic love and death.’ New York Times Book Review

‘A spectacular success.’ Edmund White

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

'Saigon, 1930s': a poor young French girl meets the elegant son of a wealthy Chinese family. Soon they are lovers, locked into a private world of passion and intensity that defies all the conventions of their society.

A sensational international bestseller, and winner of Frances’ coveted Prix Goncourt, 'The Lover' is disturbing, erotic, masterly. Here is an unforgettable portrayal of the incandescent relationship between the lovers, and of the hate that slowly tears the girl’s family apart.

'The Lover' has been made into a major film, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starring Jane March and Tony Leung. An alternative version of the events described in the novel is given in Marguerite Duras’s 'The North China Lover', also published by Flamingo.

“Rarely have I read a novel so flawlessly written”

“Very beautiful, highly intelligent, enjoyable and original”

“Perfect, a 'tour de force' … accessible in the way Thomas Mann’s 'Death in Venice' or D.M. Thomas’s 'The White Hotel' are accessible … dealing successfully with the strong themes of erotic love and death.”

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Is This An Erotic Novel? 21 May 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A translation, this dark self-absorbed short novel is classic Duras. Frequently referred to as an erotic novel, The Lover falls short of that. The novel is much more than the story of a young girl in French Indochina (Vietnam), and her first lover, an older wealthy local man. Duras tells a darker tale of emerging adolescent sexual power and selfishness, a mother-daughter relationship, and the taboos inherent in colonialism and foreignness.

The Lover was awarded the French Goncourt prize in 1984. The strength of the novel is in the underlying despair of the narrator's triangulated memories. The narrative voice the reader hears is of an older woman reflecting on her past. Duras, when writing the novel, drew upon certain aspects from her childhood in Saigon. She was also an experimental writer with an alcohol problem. Her writing style is pared to the bone.

In 1992 the film version of The Lover, was very successful. The eroticism in the film appears to have become a popular misconception in relation to the book. This particular publication has a reader introduction to Duras, her writing style, her early life in French Indochina. I highly recommend the film available on DVD.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intoxicating 15 Sep 2011
By Annie M
Wandering around a bookshop at the age of 21 I came across a paperback with a shiny siler cover. It was The Lover by Marguerite Duras. I opened the book and read the first paragraph and was immediately captivated. I cannot praise this book enough. It is written in a 'stream-of-consciousness' style and draws the reader into another world, another time, another level of reality. I have bought and given this book away about 6 times - to men I thought would appreciate its literary qualities or, more usually, its depth of human emotion and how it says much more by what is left unsaid. I fell in love with the Vietnam of both the novel and the film (also available on Amazon). Even while earning a lowly secretary's wage, I began to save for a trip to Vietnam. At the age of 31 I made my trip to Vietnam and it was much more than everything I hoped it would be. This book is in my top 5 and is adorable. For anyone who wants to experience something totally different via a novel, in terms of location, history, style of writing and emotion, this is the novel for you. Enjoy...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth a read 28 Mar 2012
By Pepper
I studied this book at university, and at first I wasn't very taken with it. It can be confusing with the fragmented memories as this is an autobiographical novel, so required a couple of readings to really get to grips with it. The protagonist may not be the most like able, but there is something very "real" about the narrative. Some describe this as an erotic novel but I have to disagree, if this is what you want you will be left disappointed.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From Lolita's point of view ... 6 Feb 2011
By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER
...well, not literally, but there certainly are parallels. This novella is set in Indochina, in the `30's, and is told, via fragments of the memory of an older woman now living in France, of her life as a precocious 15 year old, and her first sexual experiences, and perhaps, with the emphasis on the uncertainty, despite the title, of her first love. The book is light on eroticism; it is far more about the female use of sex for, if you will, "empowerment," which, in part, involves escape from an unhappy childhood situation. In gold lame high-heels and a foppish male hat, she meets her lover (or victim?), a 27 year old son of a Chinese millionaire, on a ferry as they cross the Mekong.

Marguerite Duras wrote the screenplay for the movie, Hiroshima Mon Amour [DVD] [1959] released 50 years ago. Far more so, the movie IS about love; like "The Lover," the love is trans-cultural, and each individual has experienced a significant trauma: the Japanese male was near Hiroshima, and lost family members there when the A-Bomb was dropped; she is French, and had a German officer as a lover in the village of Nevers, known for its "calme," and after the war she was ostracized as a "collabo," including having her hair shorn. "The Lover" also concerns West-East love, again, between a French woman (girl) and an Oriental male. The "trauma" each has experienced is more internalized, relating to their family. He can never be his "own man," living under the shadow of a domineering father.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I've ever read 30 Nov 2004
I chanced across this book when waiting for some female friends who went to see <<Bridget Jones>> at the cinema. I finished book just as the film finished. I'm glad I read this book rather than saw that film.
A flow of consciousness embedded in romantic fatalism. Very feminine writing. It took me on a journey of youthful experimentation, of not quite knowing but knowing, of cultural conflicts, of the exotic Indo-China in that colonial era of a faded dusty yellowness.
Strongly recommended to all those who enjoy the writing of V Nabokov.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, poetic, beautiful 17 Nov 2009
The first thing to note about this book is that it is one of three accounts of supposed real life events in the writer's life, when she was a young girl growing up in Indochina. The other published version, in a script-like form, is The North China Lover, which alters certain details and certainly fills in more of the characters and time. Either way, she is the poor white colonial girl, he is the rich son of a Chinese millionaire. This is a highly romanticised version of the truth. To understand the truth (or as much of it as is known), it is worth tracking down a biography of the writer. But as far as this book is concerned, it is no straightforward novel, and to read it as such will almost certainly result in disappointment. Duras takes an interesting approach to this fictionalised tale of her adolescence. She alternates both between the present and past tense, and between the first and third person voice. She describes some scenes in the moment, like vivid memories, but sometimes she appears to be standing outside herself - as she does in the scene when she imagines a photograph of herself as she stands on the ferry crossing the Mekong River. This is the fateful journey that introduces her to her rich lover. She sees herself from the outside, perhaps as the lover sees her, or God. She thinks there ought to be a photograph of such an important moment, but there isn't, because who would have thought that trip across the river would be so fateful.

This story of forbidden love, the 'memories' of it, are interrrupted by more recent recollections, and thoughts on people she once knew. The novel then becomes fragmented, which is emphasised by the way paragraphs are framed almost like sections. It's precisely this fragmentation that divides readers.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
So airy fairy and vague and makes me feel confused while reading.
Published 21 days ago by Miss K
4.0 out of 5 stars Emotive and atmospheric
A little vignette of love full of evocative description. I did not feel totally absorbed by it, but it is fairly enchanting.
Published 11 months ago by E. Ditchburn
2.0 out of 5 stars A Lacklustre Memoir
One of my bugbears in literature is to encounter a memoir being labelled a novel. I know the novel is an art form that defies definition and exactness. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Herman Norford
4.0 out of 5 stars the feeling of being in love
Few novels that set out to portray the feeling of being in love work for me. This one does, along with The Waterfall by Margaret Drabble, in a sweet, calm yet viscerally... Read more
Published 20 months ago by kate
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartrending, bitter youth memories
Dramatic, intense memories of an aging Frenchwoman with emphasis on her teens. They unfold during the 1920s and -30s in French Indo-China, today's Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Read more
Published 22 months ago by P. A. Doornbos
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LOVER is a masterpiece by a great writer
THE LOVER is a wonderful, rich, evocative novel -- but a work of fiction, hardly a guide book to Vietnam which would be obvious to anyone of reasonable intelligence.
Published on 22 July 2011 by John Foster
3.0 out of 5 stars A convincing portrait of dislocation
The Lover is set in pre-war French Indochina - now Vi't Nam. It is a story told by a poor white girl whose family has hit very hard times. Read more
Published on 14 April 2010 by MisterHobgoblin
1.0 out of 5 stars Only deserves one star
I recently visited Vietnam, and was recommended this book in one of the guide books. I thought it was absolute rubbish, the English translation wasn't very good, and the story... Read more
Published on 3 Mar 2010 by Lynda Baker
2.0 out of 5 stars Mercifully short
Thank goodness it's only 123 pages long! Incoherent, fragmented and repetitive drivel.

Neither shocking nor particularly erotic, as the critics claim. Read more
Published on 22 Sep 2009 by E. Mason
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