Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A is for The Alexandria Quartet

Well, here we are--the first day of the A-Z Blogging Challenge, and I hope we all have a fun and enjoyable month reading, writing, and sharing our blogs with each other. As I mentioned last week, my theme for the month is My Keeper Books, the books I cannot live without. To start the party, my first selection is: The Alexandria Quartet, by Lawrence Durrell.
 
As the title implies, it's really four books in one: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive, and Clea. However, the books are so intricately linked that I don't believe one can be read or understood without the others.

I can't remember when I bought my copy, but it was a long time ago at Foyle's bookstore in London (I used to live in the UK, so there have been a few trips back and forth) and I do remember reading it throughout the entire return flight back to the US.

I bought it for two reasons: first, my best friend from my New Zealand university days always said it was her favorite book--a great recommendation because she had excellent literary taste, and second, she had once made me watch the rather bad movie version. She claimed to have loved the film too, but maybe it was loyalty to the books that made her feel that way. Whatever her reasons, I personally found the movie, simply titled Justine, so cryptic and choppy I had to read the book just to unravel the plot.

To understand a bit more, you can read a great Roger Ebert review and even watch this incredibly hokey trailer (that YouTube insists on embedding with the "play" arrow right over Anouk Aimée's beautiful nose):


If you've stopped laughing, we'll continue . . .  

Questionable movies aside, The Alexandria Quartet is now MY favorite book. Set in Alexandria, Egypt before, during, and after World War II, reading it is like looking through a pinhole camera view of privileged, decadent, confused and hungry lives unique to their time and place. Romantic, political, desperate, experimental--the book and its characters call to me again and again, and that's why it's a keeper!

P.S. I suddenly want to see the movie again . . . oh, dear!

7 comments:

Susan Brody said...

Valerie: I haven't read this Quartet, but your description of it reminded me of Paul Scott's THE RAJ QUARTET, set in India in the waning days of the British Empire. I read those books a million years ago (after having watched the Public Television version), but the characters have stayed with me for all this time. Thanks for your post!

Valerie Storey said...

Thank you, Susan! I loved those books too, and enjoyed the PBS series thoroughly. Great to be reminded of them--makes me want to read them all over again, LOL! Happy April.

Anthony Caplan said...

I read Balthazar years ago and loved it. Someday i will finish all of them.

Barbara Martin (@Reptitude) said...

Thank you for reminding about the book, I read it many years ago and wasn't captivated -- maybe I was too young at the time and should try it again. I also read the Raj Quartet eons ago before the series existed and have never seen the series, so there's something to consider, too. Thank you, too, for alerting me to the A to Z Challenge. I had never heard of it before! What fun!

Valerie Storey said...

Thanks for visiting, Anthony and Barbara! I encourage you to read more of Durrell's Quartet--the books are definitely from a different era, time, and place but well worth exploring.

Charlotte Fairchild said...

Michael York made many more movies than I knew! This April 9 I am going to see Jimmy Carter. He will sign two books I bought of his latest book. CALL TO ACTION: Women violence, power, etc. The clip I watched on your blog Valerie seemed to fit Carter's Call to Action. Visit me at http://www.fearthounot4.blogspot.com

Valerie Storey said...

Great to hear from you, Charlotte! Yes, Michael York has been in a lot of films. Would be fun to watch them all over again. Thanks for visiting!