L’amante Anglaise (Marguerite Duras) – Review

L'Amante Anglaise by Marguerite DurasL’amante Anglaise by Marguerite Duras
Age: Adult
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Pantheon Books, 1967
ISBN 0394750225
122 pages

Find this book at your local library 

A grisly murder takes place in a small town in France. A body is dismembered and pieces of the body are dropped off a railway viaduct onto the passing trains below. Told through three individual interrogation sessions, we learn about the murderer, and try to figure out why the murder took place.

I wavered on this book. Despite its small size (only 122 pages), it took me a while to get through this book. Mostly, it took me a while to pick up after I set it back down. The interrogation sessions involved four people: the nameless questioner; the owner of the bar where the arrest/confession took place, Robert Lamy; the husband of the murderer and the murderer herself, Pierre Lasnes and Claire Bousquet.

The format of the book is written more as a play than as an actual novel. The questioner’s lines are written in italics to differentiate the two identities. The characters remain faceless, with no descriptive features. All we know about the characters are what they tell us. This definitely makes for an interesting psychological novel. Claire is the most interesting and complex character, but she meant to be the most mysterious one. Solitary, quiet, introverted, and yet somehow pathological at the same time. What’s scary is the setting of the small town, of the precise measures Claire took to dispose of the body and how easily she could have managed to escape and never be caught had it not been for a slip of the tongue.

I found out after finishing this book that it was based on a true story of a murder that took place in rural France. Duras originally wrote a play based on the story, and then later a book based on the play. Perhaps that’s why this book reads more like a play than an actual novel. It’s a quick read, but definitely calls for a lot of afterthought and retrospection.

Book 54 of 2011

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