The Lover by Marguerite Duras and The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras. (I’ve only read The North China Lover, my apologies. (Click here for review of North China Lover.)
The young girl, who is never given a name, (most likely she’s the author,) is a poor young girl of thirteen or fourteen years. She lives with her mother, her brothers, and the servant named Thanh who acts as a family’s servant of some sorts. The older brother is always trouble, and the younger one is “special needs”.
One day, while riding on a ferry, she meets a Chinese man (Manchurian) who’s at least twenty-seven years old and is extremely wealthy. He offers her a ride to town on his car, which she accepts, and in a way their relationship begins. All the time they talk about various things and he lusts after her, while its unknown what she might have felt. After the ride, they part for a little while.
Apparently, the lover has fallen hard for her, for he begins to show up at school and very soon the two become lovers. Difficulties arise for the couple; the lover has an arranged marriage with a Chinese girl although he desires to marry the young girl, while young girl’s mother requested that the eldest son with an opium habit should leave back to France.
People find out about the couple and confront the girl’s mother about it. The father finds out about the couple and refuses his son’s requests to break off the marriage with the Chinese girl so he could marry the young girl. Also, the older brother wrote to the father who sent the girl’s family money. The mother and the lover meet and discuss numerous things. Saddened by his fate, the Chinese lover agrees to marry, while on the same day the girl will sail back to France.
I read that in The Lover the girl’s lover watches the ship sailing away, while in The North China Lover, the lover doesn’t do that. So the couple become separated and until 1990s or maybe earlier when the book is written, he calls her, tells her that he never stopped loving her. The woman also cried, but alas they were never reunited.
I can imagine that many things will deter people from reading the novel; first is the enormous age difference between the couple; she thirteen or fourteen, while he is almost thirty, which is similar to pedophilia; then of course the erotic aspect of the story, and perhaps the writing is very different than what people are used to. Let me give an example:
“He said that to him it was strange how much their story had remained what it was before, how he still loved her, how he would never stop loving her for the rest of his life. How he would love her until he died.” (Page 226)
Romeo and Juliet qualities:
There’s disapproval of parents, the differences between the couple in terms of socio-economic class, as well as races.