Lessing sets the stage for what could be, and sometimes is, an elegant comedy of manners. The play, JULIE VAIRON: AN ENTERTAINMENT, tells the story of a young quadroon girl from Martinique who fell in love with a young French officer and returned with him to the Provencal town of Belles Rivieres. The romantic story counterpoints the emotional upheavals besetting the members of the production.
The actors fall in and out of love with each other during the rehearsal period. The preenings, flirtations, and physical desires that flourish in close proximity are precisely detailed, and Lessing weaves in allusions both to the literature and pop culture of love that enrich the texture of the relationships.
Sarah, infatuated first with a young actor and then with the middle-aged director, is forced to confront the longing, grief and despair that had been deeply buried in her psyche for many years.
At times the reader may become annoyed with the seeming fecklessness of the characters—too many of them seem to race headlong into certain disaster. The author’s equivocal tone wavers between tragic and comic, leaving the reader to wonder whether to laugh or cry at the plight of love’s victims. The wide-ranging focus gives the novel a messy feel—ends are left untied and situations unresolved—yet life is inherently messy. What Lessing has presented in LOVE, AGAIN is a slice of life.
Readers are not often offered a novel that explores the passage into old age. Lessing confronts the issue unsentimentally, and often, ironically. Sarah Durham is, at the end of the novel, an old woman—not doddering or dependent, but cognizant of her age and the significant change in her life.
Sources for Further Study
Booklist. XCII, February 15, 1996, p. 1071.
Chicago Tribune. April 7, 1996, XIV, p. 1.
Library Journal. CXX, December, 1995, p. 80.
London Review of Books. XVIII, April 18, 1996, p. 24.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. April 28, 1996, p. 4.
The Nation. CCLXII, May 6, 1996, p. 62.
The New York Review of Books. XLIII, April 18, 1996, p. 13.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, April 21, 1996, p. 13.
The New Yorker. LXXII, June 10, 1996, p. 89.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLIII, January 29, 1996, p. 83.
The Times Literary Supplement. April 5, 1996, p. 27.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVI, March 31, 1996, p. 7.