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#70….The Alexandria Quartet….Clea

August 14, 2010

“I began to see too that the real ‘fiction’ lay neither in Arnauti’s pages nor Pursewarden’s–nor even my own. It was life itself that was a fiction–we were all saying it on our different ways, each understanding it according to his nature and gift.”

Clea, the fourth and final installment of Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, attemps to wrap up the lives and destinies of the characters we’ve grown to know, love and/or detest during this series. Darley is asked to return to Alexandria to drop off Nessim and Melissa’s kid with Nessim, and while doing so, hangs out with all of his wacky buddies to see what they’ve been up to since he took off to be a hermit on the island. Here’s the breakdown of what’s been going on in Alexandria:

Nessim and Justine: after their little illegal weapons caper, they’re under house arrest.
Scobie, the dead cross-dressing secret agent: after his homemade liquor killed a whole bunch of people, and touching his bathtub made a bunch of women get pregnant, he’s now revered as a quasi-saint by the locals.
Capodistria: actually not dead as was once thought. The guy everyone thought was him floating in the water at the duck hunt was someone else. He lives in Greece now.
Pursewarden: still dead. As far as I know.
Clea: she’s apparently still painting, but she hooks up with Darley for much of the book and kicks him to the curb by the end of it. She also has an unfortunate boating accident that changes her career.
Mountolive: he’s getting married to Pursewarden’s blind sister Liza. He’s still PO’d at Nessim.
Pombal: he hooked up with a married lady, who gets sick and dies.
Balthazar: he fell in love with a guy and went psycho. He’s recovering now though.

And that’s it. Clea reads like the high school reunion you’d never want to attend. After how much I liked the first three books, particularly Mountolive, this book fell very flat for me. I wanted, and to be honest, expected everyone to have more dramatic life changes, like Nessim going in front of a firing squad or Justine dying of the clap. Durrell had created a world where nothing was really outside the realm of possibility. So I have to say I was surprised that he went this direction. The story just kind of fizzed out for me like one of those sparklers on 4th of July.

In closing, I’m not sorry I read this series. There were some shocking revelations throughout, which kept you guessing what would happen next. By the time I finished Mountolive, I was used to drama and misunderstandings and ‘a-ha moments’. Clea was different from the other three books in that it was the only one of the books that went into fast-forward. Nothing new and amazing was revealed in Clea like in the other three books, and maybe that was why I didn’t like it as much?

Durrell showed us there are always different angles, different views, different takes on any one situation, and it was like peeling back the layers of an onion. That was the take-home message for me from this series.

Grade: C+

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