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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:16 am    Post subject:  Reply with quote

I'm feeling a bit guilty about neglecting Big Readers and all who sail in her - as you say, I have other preoccupations. I'm sure though, everyone else has equally pressing demands on their time, so that is no excuse, merely a confession of how badly organised I am!

I've been reading a lot lately (I'll report on that in due course), but have been neglecting Durrell, as the circumstances, or maybe it was my mood, just didn't seem right. However I'm now back on board: I finished 'Monsieur' last night and am ready to move on to 'Livia' this evening.

I wish you hadn't pointed out the similarity to Boris Johnson - I'm never going to be able to get that out of my head now, and that is not how I want to see Toby and Sutcliffe, but it is all too apt! I'm not sure that Durrell would have appreciated your comment about the Englishness of his writing - he detested Britain, which he called 'Pudding Island' and in fact spent a relatively small part of his life there. But I do see what you mean: I almost see him as the heir to some of those great 19th and early 20th century adventure and travel writers who evoked exotic places for the benefit of an audience firmly established in the safety of their own very English homes.

The way characters slip from being 'real' to 'fictions' is one of the joys of Durrell's storytelling, although as you point out, ultimately they are all creatures of Durrell's imagination. This, combined to the way they change according to the perspective from which they are seen, gives a dynamism to the narrative which keeps me very focused on the development of the story.
Some things in the book make me just want to 'go with the flow' - the Gnostism for instance, which I freely admit I don't really understand, - but the ebb and flow of the characters pulls me back from drifting off too far out of my depth (I think this metaphor is getting very mixed!) and keeps my mind on how they interact, both with themselves and their circumstances. Sometimes, the landscapes and settings seem more real than the people, which of course if reasonable - the characters come and go, are here for only a short space of time, but the background against which they work out their dramas is, if not unchanging, subject to change only over a much longer timescale.

I think I'm starting to ramble, so I will say no more until I have made a good strt on 'Livia'.


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KlaraZ



Joined: 29 Jun 2010
Posts: 193



PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 7:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've just returned from a trip to Cyprus, and I took Lawrence Durrell's book, 'Bitter Lemons of Cyprus' with me as my holiday reading. A brilliant, poetic memoir of his time in North Cyprus during the 1950s, ending on an elegaic note as the troubles begin. We were also able to cross the border and visit Bellapaix where he lived, a fascinating experience.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 9:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

He is the most fabulous travel writer - though that, which I think is probably his most famous travel book, is still on the TBR.  I was blown away by his Prospero's Cell, about his time with his then wife on Corfu.  He uses that amazing ability to evoke places in his novels too.

Wonderful to read it in Cyprus, Klara!

I am still reading Livia - my reading has slowed down a bit lately - and while it's not engaging me as much as Monsieur, the writing is still holding my attention, and his wonderful characters never fail to engage - he really does create the most extraordinary characters, even when they are relatively ordinary people (Darley in the Alexandria, Bruce in the first volume of this).

Monsieur was such a fabulous tour de force, and while Livia started with the same sort of brilliance, I haven't felt quite so entranced in the middle section.  It could be my lack of concentration, though.

Chris - yes, the 'Pudding Island' thing has always made me laugh, and it's because I knew of his disdain for Britain and England that I found the Englishness of his writing so interesting.  And I'm sorry about Boris Johnson!


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Castorboy



Joined: 22 Nov 2008
Posts: 1798


Location: Castor Bay Auckland NZ

PostPosted: Thu May 03, 2012 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

KlaraZ wrote:
I've just returned from a trip to Cyprus, and I took Lawrence Durrell's book, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus with me as my holiday reading. A brilliant, poetic memoir of his time in North Cyprus during the 1950s, ending on an elegaic note as the troubles begin. We were also able to cross the border and visit Bellapaix where he lived, a fascinating experience.

I am envious - when I read it in NZ I felt I was almost there in Cyprus with the people he writes about.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Fri May 04, 2012 8:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm still on the first section of 'Livia', in which Blanford discusses the creation of fictional characher with Sutcliffe, who is his creation and mentions ' a series of books through which the same characters move for all the world as if to illustrate the notion of reincarnation'. The Duchesse de Tu, from 'Monsieur' is indeed reincarnated as Constance, the sister of Livia and so far seems to be very much the focus of this story, although, of course, she has her 'own' book as the next in the sequence. She was a likeable, if somewhat grotesque, character in the earlier book, and here is engagingly portrayed as the light in contrast to Livia's darkness.

So far, the sensual descriptions of 'Monsieur' are not evident and there is a lightness of tone which is very different from that of the first book. Also, of course in 'Monsieur', Durrell makes us accept his characters as 'real', whereas here we see them at a remove, a new set of characters now coming to the fore as representing the reality from which the fictional one were created.
A sort of enigma within an enigma!

I have six weeks to go now before I am due to be 'there' - we are planning to stay in Vaison-la-Romaine, which is in the Northern part of the Vaucluse, but still within reach of Avignon and some of the other areas described in the series of books. I plan to read at least 'Livia' and 'Constance' before we leave, maybe even 'Sebastian', and save the last book to read while we are away. I know the whole thing is not set in Provence, but the area plays a sufficiently important role to make it worthwhile to approach it as an adjunct to reading the novels.


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chris-l



Joined: 27 Nov 2008
Posts: 731



PostPosted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 10:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Evie, I noted somewhere that you were still a bit bogged down in 'Livia'. I can absolutely understand that. To me, it does not seem to work as a novel in its own right, but works more as an exposition of Durrell's intentions and as a chance to reposition and expand on some of the characters and stories from 'Monsieur', as well as introducing a few people who will be significant in future. The fabulous set peice of the banquet at the Pont du Gard does round it off very nicely, though.

I didn't get as far as I hoped while on holiday, just to the end of 'Constance', but as that is a very hefty book in its own right, I was pleased to have made so much progress.

'Constance' is a very different story with a gripping, if emotionally difficult, plot. Avignon, Egypt and Geneva during WW2 are the principal settings, although it moves around quite a bit. Identities again become somewhat blurred, with Sutcliff and Blanford achieving some sort of co-existence and another trio of brother/sister/lover appearing to echo Piers/Sylvie/Bruce. The fate of the various characters under Nazi occupation and in various war zones is extraordinarily moving and the brutality of those times graphically described. It wasn't an easy read, but it was much more satisfying than 'Livia'.

I hope you will soon feel you can read a bit more, Evie. I won't post any more until I know where you are up to, as it would be more interesting to be able to exchange a few opinions.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Sat Jun 30, 2012 7:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this, Chris!  I am back into a better reading routine, but still haven't finished Livia - have got sidetracked, in what little reading I have done - but once I have read the book for my book group, which meets on Wednesday, I will get back to Durrell, who I am missing a lot.  I remember loving Constance when I read it before.

Part of my problem lately has been that I have been borrowing books from the library, as I want to keep supporting it - but that means I have to read those books as I have them for three weeks (and am a slow reader!), hence getting sidetracked.  But I have upped my reading time a lot lately, and am making good progress again, and loving my reading, so hope to be back on track soon!


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2012 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Back on the Durrell, and it feels soooooo good!


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
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Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 6:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have now finished Livia - the first and last sections were thrilling, and the middle bit was confusing!  I found it hard to follow the different strands, and still don't really understand how it all fits together.  But the writing...oh, the writing - the set pieces are just *glorious*, as are the characters themselves.  And the names - Durrell is so good at naming his characters!

There was a quote near the end, as Blanford is thinking on a moonlit walk, that interested me as an art historian:  
Quote:

Painting persuades by thrilling the mind and the optic nerve simultaneously, whereas words connote, mean something however approximate and are influenced by their associative value. The spell they cast tends to master things - it lacks innocence. They are instruments of Merlin or Faust. Painting is devoid of this kind of treachery - it is an innocent celebration of things, ony seeking to inspirit and not coerce.


Interesting.  I love Blanford, and his dialogue - real or metaphorical - with Sutcliffe is the highlight of the novel for me, just brilliant.

Anyway, fabulous to be enfolded in Durrell's exquisite writing again - poetic, funny, earthy, heartbreaking.  Now on to Constance.


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Evie
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Joined: 24 Oct 2008
Posts: 3569


Location: Kenilworth, Warwickshire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jul 11, 2012 9:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lovely article about Lawrence Durrell here:

http://www.bookslut.com/features/2012_07_019156.php



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