The Lover

By Marguerite Duras, Barbara Bray (translator),

Book cover of The Lover

Book description

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

Saigon, 1930s: a poor young French girl meets the elegant son of a wealthy Chinese…

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Why read it?

5 authors picked The Lover as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I guess that this book doesn’t really count, as Duras was born and grew up in Vietnam; a Frenchwoman in Indochina, she wasn’t living abroad.

Her portrayal of her own coming of age and sexual awakening (still rather controversial to many) illuminates not only the way colonial society was structured but also larger themes of love and loss.

It was one of the first things I read before moving to Laos, and her voice, singular and astonishing, has never left me. 

From Brett's list on books about living abroad in Asia.

Decades after its first publication in 1984, Duras' fictionalized autobiography is still an engrossing read.

Placed in prewar Saigon, a 15-year-old schoolgirl, the first-person narrator, lives like a stray cat in depriving circumstances with a neglectful manic-depressive mother. When a wealthy 27-year-old Chinese man seduces her into an affair, she takes refuge with him in a confusing life of soothing seclusion and melancholic sexuality.

I found this raw emotional account of an adolescent's defiant self-denigration combined with the wistful recognition of her and her lover's impossible affair as astute as it is heart-wrenching. It's a small book that will never…

This classic of illicit passion is so beautifully written, so mesmeric in its poetic prose and recreation of a long-gone world, it blew my mind when I first read it and changed my ideas about the possibilities of writing. The young Duras meets a Chinese man on a ferry crossing the Mekong at the start of this autobiographical novel. Their differences in age, wealth, class, race, and expectations, all play out, and it’s a novel as much about exploitation as sexual desire. It’s multi-layered, experimental, but has a real narrative tug. I love it!

From Joanna's list on ill-advised relationships.

The Lover was published in 1984. It is set in the French Indochina in 1929 and tells the story of a clandestine romance between an older rich Chinese man and a fifteen-year-old girl from a French family that has family difficulties. This book is not only important for the period and the love story itself, there is something more, like the way it’s narrated in the first person by the young woman, with the pain and challenges between mothers and daughters. Also on the opposite side, there is the father of the Chinese man and a society that would not…

From Núria's list on female anti-heroes.

Travel back in time to colonial Vietnam with this exquisite memoir about a girl’s coming of age in an exotic land. Duras’ narrative voice is magic itself—at times soft as silk, and at other times, hard, brilliant as a diamond. Read it for tone. Read it for wisdom. Read it for the first love that echoes for a lifetime. Fly across the decades, down the length of a lifetime, within a hundred pages.

From Andrew's list on for travelers to Asia.

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