Some two hundred years before Lawrence Durrell offered readers a blank page to represent silence – perhaps inviting us to interpret that of Clea – Lawrence Sterne, in “The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman”, invited us to paint on his a likeness of a chosen beautiful mistress.

Durrell’s page is followed by a list of Workpoints as perhaps for a notebook, which may explain my ambivalence about “Justine”, the first of his acclaimed Alexandria Quartet, to which I have returned after perhaps 40 years of forgetfulness.

The writer’s cornucopia of abundantly luscious prose exploring the nature of love and lust in the context of a portrait of a suffocating city is indeed engaging. The mistresses described by the anonymous narrator are as beautiful as those suggested by Sterne. His descriptions of the nature of Alexandria shortly before World War II are packed in verbally delightful, yet economical, sentences.

My problem is that for me the work itself reads like a notebook in which I seek to follow a narrative of the interwoven lives of a variety of very passionate protagonists unable ultimately to commit, over periods of time to those they truly love, and consequently seem doomed to remain unsatisfied. Durrell has maybe captured the experience of many of us.

I am pleased that I was prompted to revisit this work by https://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2023/01/30/the-threshold-of-imagination/

Linda is an intelligent, resourceful, respected blogger. She has put much more layers of thought into her review highlighted above than I have managed in mine, no doubt the result of her repeated returns to it. In the interests of reasonable balance I would recommend reading what she has to say.