Top positive review
Brilliant, but sad in so many ways
on 7 August 2016
This is the 1923 novel that was shocking on its debut in France soon after the WW1 because it relates the first person perspective of a typical sixteen year old Francois having the chance of sex with an older, married woman whilst her husband Jacques is at the front. It is based on fact with this version having an introduction and afterword relating the long shadow the events cast over the true relationship between husband and wife after the war.
The story is dramatic and challenging – they are both guilty of lust, love and ‘cease the day’ of the times. It is extremely well written and quite captivating; I got the feeling she really loved the adolescent. The underage sex (for it starts when the schoolboy is 15) may well be a further and more difficult challenge today? It is also interesting how Francois’s father seems to almost promote the affair whilst the rest of society (landlords, neighbours etc) abhor the deceit yet hide it on the husband’s return.
For me the most shocking was not the affair or underage sex but the first quote below-
“It was I who dictated the only tender letters he ever received from her. She wrote them against her will, in tears, as I threatened that I would never see her again if she disobeyed. That Jacques should owe his only happiness to me did something to mitigate my remorse”
“The painful thing is not to leave life, but to leave whatever gives it meaning. When love is one’s life, what is the difference between living together and dying together”
“The field shivered in the evening breeze. Our selfish desire succeeded in forgetting prejudice, sacrificing the corn to the comfort of our love as it had sacrificed Jacques”
“Love must offer a great many advantages, since all men entrust it with their freedom”
Brilliant and one of the most thought provoking books I’ve read – 5 stars.