In Marguerite Duras’ Goncourt winning autobiographical novel, L’Amant (The Lover), the young 15-year-old narrator falls in love with a man 12 years her senior.
Set in French Indochina, Duras’ novel recounts her troubled relationships with her family- her mother’s favouring of her eldest son, his violence and their financial hardships, as well as the suffocating atmosphere of the French colonial way of life.
These circumstances, and the awareness the narrator has of her need to make her own way in the world are what push her into her clandestine relationship with a wealthy Chinese heir. Though he is passionately in love with her, the man’s father will forbid the marriage, and the affair is doomed to end. It is only years later, when Duras has left Indochina, that she will understand what the relationship meant to her.
Told in Duras’ characteristic sparse, luminous prose, this is a haunting coming of age novel by one of France’s greatest authors.
You can find information on the book in English on the British publisher’s website.
As part of our Reading Group series