Sunday, February 18, 2024


by Djuna Barnes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Barnes wrote this novel in the 1930s and it is mentioned as both an influential novel for many "modern" writers of that vintage (Faulkner, Joyce, Eliot, etc.) and a classic work of lesbian fiction. The book centers around a woman named Robin Vote and the impact she has upon the lives of various people. Most of the book is set in Paris and the point-of-view shifts from character to character, but always circling around Robin. 
In his introduction to the novel T. S. Eliot says:
"What I would leave the reader prepared to find is the great achievement of style, the beauty of phrasing, the brilliance of wit and characterisation, and a quality of horror and doom very nearly related to that of Elizabethan tragedy."
That seems like an accurate description. I enjoyed this book, although I found it hard to follow at first. The structure was very well suited to the tone of the tale being told and the language was striking.
"If I should try to put it into words, I mean how I did see her, it would be incomprehensible, for the simple reason that I find that I never did have a really clear idea of her at any time. I had an image of her, but that is not the same thing. An image is a stop the mind makes between uncertainties." (p. 111)
This book is on my Classics Club list

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