History: This book was published in France by Gallimard in 1964.
Plot: At the beginning of the novel, Lol Stein (her middle initial is omitted in the English translation) is a woman in her thirties. She was born and raised in South Tahla in a bourgeois family and is engaged to Michael Richardson at 19. However, at a ball in the seaside resort of Town Beach, Michael Richardson leaves Lol for Anne-Marie Stretter, an older woman. After a difficult recovery from this shock, Lol marries Jean Bedford, a musician she meets on one of her daily walks. Lol leaves South Tahla with her husband.
Ten years later, with three children, Lol is an established woman with no time for fantasy. She returns with her family to South Tahla and moves into the house she grew up in. Lol goes on her daily walks as she did ten years before. She thinks she recognises Tatiana Karl one day, the friend who consoled her after her breakup with Michael Richardson. The man who accompanies Tatiana makes a deep impression on Lol.
Lol reestablishes her contact with Tatiana and gets to know both her husband and her lover, Jacques Hold. Lol is able to get information from Jacques about events at the ball at T Beach 10 years before. Lol reveals to Jacques her interest in him but forbids him to stay with her instead of Tatiana.
Lol spies on Tatiana and her lover but Jacques notices her. One day Lol tells Jacques that she has been to T Beach alone and plans to return with him. While doing this, Lol shows Jacques the room where she and Michael Richardson had split up. Lol and Jacques spend the night together. The next day, Jacques has one last meeting with Tatiana Karl.
The novel is seen through the obsessive eyes of Jacques Hold. The primary character in novel shifts from Lol to himself as you delve further into his pursuit of Lol.
Review: This isn't a happy book, despite Lol's protests to the contrary. The author's writing style is changeable and intricate, depicting the turbulent thought patterns of the characters. The landscape is broad and bland. Lol is lost in a desert of supressed pain and love. It is a tortuous tale, difficult to watch so much anguish. Somewhat unreal, one may come away sensing this is almost a mythical story. Some of Duras' work is notably autobiographical. One may wonder what brought this tale to light.
Opening Line: “Lol Stein was born here in South Tahla, and she spent a good part of her youth in this town.”
Closing Line: “She was asleep in the field of rye, worn out, worn out by our trip.”
Quotes: “That she had so completely recovered her sanity was a source of sadness to her. One should never be cured of one's passion.”
Rating: Not too good.