The Ravishing of Lol Stein is a haunting early novel by the author of The Lover. Lol Stein is a beautiful young woman, securely married, settled in a comfortable life--and a voyeur. Returning with her husband and children to the town where, years before, her fiancé had abandoned her for another woman, she is drawn inexorably to recreate that long-past tragedy. She arranges a rendezvous for her friend Tatiana and Tatiana's lover. She arranges to spy on them. And then, she goes one step further . . .
This book was beyond bizarre. Lol Stein's life is disastrous in such a way that you can't help but stare at it. It was like a car accident that you know you should look away from but just keep watching. Her obsession with Tatiana is creepy. That being said it's really well written so it's incredibly compelling Just as Lol is obsessed with Tatiana, you find yourself obsessed with Lol and her voyeurism. The book was first published in the 1960s, so I think it was probably pretty risque for its time. Lol is unable to act on her feelings and thoughts due to societal pressures, the fact that both women are married etc etc and it drives her to these acts of voyeurism. The emphasis on discrepancy from the sexual norm and the madness that accompanies it in this novel sometimes made me think of Lolita.
The one thing I really didn't like about this novel was John. Not only is he Tatiana's lover and her husband's best friend, he also finds himself in love with Lol and enagages in an affair with her as well. He's the narrator of this story, so all events are described from this twisted position. He makes these grand assumptions about what Lol is thinking or her motivations but its pretty clear that his understanding is limited. I found that it just made me frustrated having such an unreliable narrator.
This book is incredibly well written. It was my first experience with Duras but I'm dying to pick up The Lover now. If you are going to read it though you may have to prepare yourself for some uncomfortable moments. If in fact Lol loves Tatiana (and I'm not convinced that what was actually going on was love) then it is a dark and disturbing side of love. Duras does a great job of bringing you face to face with this more unpleasant side of human interaction. Do I recommend you read it? I'm not sure honestly, I'm still trying to process it myself (which could be a recommendation in itself).
Tragic, heart wrenching, dark, and numbing. Lol Stein is a nobody. A nothing. A shell of a person.
We are talking about a character that is called Lol V. Stein (not the most sexy name for a character) who likes to be the ignored corner of a triangular relationship. We are also talking about trauma without the presence of pain. In fact, what is this book all about? Lol is left by her husband, but seems to find a sort of perverted pleasure in him taking off with another woman. She then tries to recreate this whole scenario by manipulating the lover of her best friend, who also happens to be the narrator.
I'll come back to this review after I've analysed this book in my French class, but for now, all I can say is that usually I have strong feelings after finishing a book. Either very positive, very negative or very neutral. This book is like the somewhat creepy, silent kid that was always in your class, the faux pas that did have a certain charisma. Very strange, very intruiging.