Book Review: The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The Lover by Marguerite Duras I only read this book because I “had to”, but actually, it was quite good!

I’ll explain: On, in the group Play Book Tag, we’re playing a game where we have to read the top-200 tags in alphabetical order, starting at a tag randomly assigned to you. Tags are things like “crime”, “parenting” and in this case “erotica”. When a book covers more than one sequential tag (say, “crime” and “crime fiction”) you can cross them both off. So you don’t need to read a book per tag if you choose your books strategically. At the end of August, the winner is the one that finished the most tags.

“Erotica” isn’t something I read often, but a classic like The Lover seemed a good choice. And it was. Not much erotic going on anyway. I remembered quite soon after starting reading that I’d seen the movie a few years back, which was very enjoyable too.

The Lover: What it is about

This short book tells the story of a fifteen year old French girl in Vietnam who meets an extremely rich Chinese man who becomes her lover. He is ten years her senior and very much in love but his family does not allow him to marry her. Doing so would make them break all ties with him.

The girl is based on Duras herself who lived in Vietnam as a child. She lives with her mother and brothers in very poor conditions and the weekly restaurant trips for the whole family, organised by the Chinese lover, are very welcome.

The Lover: What I thought

This book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. The story was familiar to me since I’d seen the movie. I didn’t approve of the story itself – a fifteen year old having an affair with a much older man in a relationship that seems to be very close to prostitution.

But the back story about her circumstances, poor, with a mentally unstable mother, was interesting. There wasn’t much that would make even the prudest person recoil – I would not call this an erotic book at all.

The way it was written made this a good reading experience.

Rating: 4.5/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch, the original language is French (L’Amant)

Number of pages: 143

First published: 1984

Genre: literary fiction


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

22 Responses to Book Review: The Lover by Marguerite Duras

  1. I hope you don’t mind my being pedantic, but the original language of this book is not English but French. The original title is “L’amant”. Duras was French and wrote everything in French.

    • Leeswammes says:

      You’re totally right, Anna! Most of the books I read are in English, or originally in English, but this is a French one. Not pedantic at all!

  2. Nishita says:

    It’s odd how some books are classified. I don’t usually read erotica, and this classification might have put me off what seems a pretty, interesting book.

  3. TheBookGirl says:

    That Library Thing game sounds fun…Are there parallels to Lolita in this one?

  4. Rikki says:

    Erotic? The tags some people give books on Shealfari is strange indeed. This book is not erotica in the least, you are right. Like I said before, I preferred the film to the book which is rare enough for me.

    @TheBookGirl, I don’t think you can compare it with Lolita. As far as I can remember Humbert Humber was absolutely obsessed with her, not so here. But it is many years that I read Lolita, so I’m not sure.

  5. Uniflame says:

    This might be an interesting read 🙂 I am glad it doesn’t is erotica at all. Because I wouldn’t really like to read “all the details”.

  6. Ha, I´m sure I would also have picked an old one if I had to – one of those books that were banned 100 years ago, but which no one would understand today 🙂

  7. Nadine Nys says:

    I would never read a book labeled ‘erotica’, because I am not interested in that genre. So, without your review I would never even have considered reading it. And now perhaps I will. Thanks, Judith!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Well, it just depends where you look, Nadine. It was labeled “erotica” on Shelfari – so you’d only know if you’d look there. 🙂

  8. Boekhapper says:

    If you liked this, I would recomment another one by Duras, “Een dam tegen de Grote Oceaan” (Un barrage contre le Pacifique). I liked that one even better than The Lover.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Thanks for the recommendation, Joke. I never actually thought of reading another book by her. Not sure why not. I’ll see if my library has it. Thanks.

  9. sakura says:

    I read this many years ago and really liked it (as I did the film – I think the film was more graphic than the book). I thought it was more a romance than erotica. I don’t think I’ve read anything else by Duras, although I’ve been meaning to.

  10. JoV says:

    I watch the movie but yet to read the book. Book always work better for me than movie, only when the movie director decided to improvise a little. Thanks for the review!

  11. Maja says:

    I need to write several reviews about this book but since it is written as memories comes to Duras, it is very difficult to follow. Can someone tell me what are the main points, chronologically? Thank you!!!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Maja, once you get into the book, it’s not that hard to follow. I think it’s a matter of reading and keeping pen and paper at the ready. Good luck!

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