Category: Andre Gide

book review – Strait is the Gate


There is a style of writing that sets up a character to embody an argument as a way of life and Andre Gide delivers a great example of that here.

Where there should be happiness and love there is despair and death. Ironically the reason for it is because of a zealous devotion to God. This is a book about the sort of religious devotion that causes people to become martyrs and lose out on happiness because it is somehow sinful to enjoy life.

In a nutshell this is a love story about a boy – Jerome – and a girl – Alissa – who grow up to become a man and a woman. They are clear about their plans to marry from their teenage years but not far after reaching the point where an engagement would be announced in the lead-up to a marriage things start to go wrong.

The first sign that Alissa is prepared to sacrifice her own happiness comes when her sister falls in love with Jerome. Alissa steps back and is prepared to step aside for the sake of her sister’s joy. Once that fails she still seems determined to sacrifice her love with Jerome. He has to go away and further his studies and carry out his military service but she keeps him at bay. The weeks stretch into months and still Alissa keeps him at arms length.

Even after her sister has married and that reason for sacrificing Jerome has disappeared she continues to try and sabotage her love. Finally the extremes are reached with her dressing in a way that will make her appear to be a frump and she also makes the decision to dump the literature he has sent her to read quant religious texts instead.

Inevitably the end comes with her rejecting Jerome for once and for all and then dying of a broken heart after he fails to return as she secretly hoped. Her victory over her heart has been complete but it costs Alissa her life.

Diaries passed onto Jerome after her death reveal how Alissa had hoped that he would come back for her even after all she had done to dissuade him. He remains devoted to a memory and in a telling exchange with Alissa’s sister he tells how he will love her forever and she reveals, to the reader at least, that she has always loved Jerome.

The fact she still loves Jerome must have been known by her sister. The determination of Alissa to reject Jerome and all that he had to offer was a supreme effort that could only be supported and driven by a belief in God that sustained her effort.

For Jerome the irony is that he has been consistent all along with his love for Alissa but unbeknown to him it is the complexities of the heart that are happening all around him that seal his fate. He has made his choice but the fact he is also chosen is something beyond his control.

Sometimes Gide can be accused of going on a bit – Fruits of the Earth springs to mind – but he gets the balance just about right here. It is helped by the story and characterisation of Alissa and Jerome, which keeps it from becoming a tract on religious fervour.

Version read – Penguin paperback

book review – Strait is the Gate


There is a style of writing that sets up a character to embody an argument as a way of life and Andre Gide delivers a great example of that here.

Where there should be happiness and love there is despair and death. Ironically the reason for it is because of a zealous devotion to God. This is a book about the sort of religious devotion that causes people to become martyrs and lose out on happiness because it is somehow sinful to enjoy life.

In a nutshell this is a love story about a boy – Jerome – and a girl – Alissa – who grow up to become a man and a woman. They are clear about their plans to marry from their teenage years but not far after reaching the point where an engagement would be announced in the lead-up to a marriage things start to go wrong.

The first sign that Alissa is prepared to sacrifice her own happiness comes when her sister falls in love with Jerome. Alissa steps back and is prepared to step aside for the sake of her sister’s joy. Once that fails she still seems determined to sacrifice her love with Jerome. He has to go away and further his studies and carry out his military service but she keeps him at bay. The weeks stretch into months and still Alissa keeps him at arms length.

Even after her sister has married and that reason for sacrificing Jerome has disappeared she continues to try and sabotage her love. Finally the extremes are reached with her dressing in a way that will make her appear to be a frump and she also makes the decision to dump the literature he has sent her to read quant religious texts instead.

Inevitably the end comes with her rejecting Jerome for once and for all and then dying of a broken heart after he fails to return as she secretly hoped. Her victory over her heart has been complete but it costs Alissa her life.

Diaries passed onto Jerome after her death reveal how Alissa had hoped that he would come back for her even after all she had done to dissuade him. He remains devoted to a memory and in a telling exchange with Alissa’s sister he tells how he will love her forever and she reveals, to the reader at least, that she has always loved Jerome.

The fact she still loves Jerome must have been known by her sister. The determination of Alissa to reject Jerome and all that he had to offer was a supreme effort that could only be supported and driven by a belief in God that sustained her effort.

For Jerome the irony is that he has been consistent all along with his love for Alissa but unbeknown to him it is the complexities of the heart that are happening all around him that seal his fate. He has made his choice but the fact he is also chosen is something beyond his control.

Sometimes Gide can be accused of going on a bit – Fruits of the Earth springs to mind – but he gets the balance just about right here. It is helped by the story and characterisation of Alissa and Jerome, which keeps it from becoming a tract on religious fervour.

Version read – Penguin paperback

book review – Strait is the Gate


There is a style of writing that sets up a character to embody an argument as a way of life and Andre Gide delivers a great example of that here.

Where there should be happiness and love there is despair and death. Ironically the reason for it is because of a zealous devotion to God. This is a book about the sort of religious devotion that causes people to become martyrs and lose out on happiness because it is somehow sinful to enjoy life.

In a nutshell this is a love story about a boy – Jerome – and a girl – Alissa – who grow up to become a man and a woman. They are clear about their plans to marry from their teenage years but not far after reaching the point where an engagement would be announced in the lead-up to a marriage things start to go wrong.

The first sign that Alissa is prepared to sacrifice her own happiness comes when her sister falls in love with Jerome. Alissa steps back and is prepared to step aside for the sake of her sister’s joy. Once that fails she still seems determined to sacrifice her love with Jerome. He has to go away and further his studies and carry out his military service but she keeps him at bay. The weeks stretch into months and still Alissa keeps him at arms length.

Even after her sister has married and that reason for sacrificing Jerome has disappeared she continues to try and sabotage her love. Finally the extremes are reached with her dressing in a way that will make her appear to be a frump and she also makes the decision to dump the literature he has sent her to read quant religious texts instead.

Inevitably the end comes with her rejecting Jerome for once and for all and then dying of a broken heart after he fails to return as she secretly hoped. Her victory over her heart has been complete but it costs Alissa her life.

Diaries passed onto Jerome after her death reveal how Alissa had hoped that he would come back for her even after all she had done to dissuade him. He remains devoted to a memory and in a telling exchange with Alissa’s sister he tells how he will love her forever and she reveals, to the reader at least, that she has always loved Jerome.

The fact she still loves Jerome must have been known by her sister. The determination of Alissa to reject Jerome and all that he had to offer was a supreme effort that could only be supported and driven by a belief in God that sustained her effort.

For Jerome the irony is that he has been consistent all along with his love for Alissa but unbeknown to him it is the complexities of the heart that are happening all around him that seal his fate. He has made his choice but the fact he is also chosen is something beyond his control.

Sometimes Gide can be accused of going on a bit – Fruits of the Earth springs to mind – but he gets the balance just about right here. It is helped by the story and characterisation of Alissa and Jerome, which keeps it from becoming a tract on religious fervour.

Version read – Penguin paperback

Lunchtime read: Strait is the Gate

After Alissa’s death Jerome is given her private papers and through the pages of the diary he gets to see the last few years through her eyes.

The moments when she denied him of her love are painful and extraordinarily difficult for her and at the final meeting she regrets their parting and years for him to come back. Of course by then too much damage has been done to make the relationship work and Jerome walks out of her life for the last time.

Years pass and he takes up the invitation to visit Alissa’s sister and they talk and Jerome expresses his belief that he will never be able to marry anyone because he still loves Alissa. At this Juliette takes him into a private room and questions him about if it is possible to love someone all your life and cries in the darkness revealing that despite the marriage to a farmer and five children she is still in love with Jerome.

This revelation at the end shows the dangerous consequences of love that Alissa in her own way tried so hard to avoid. She could not cope with the thought that someone would be hurt, either as a result of disappointment, or because of falling in love with someone else.

A review will follow soon…

Lunchtime read: Strait is the Gate

After Alissa’s death Jerome is given her private papers and through the pages of the diary he gets to see the last few years through her eyes.

The moments when she denied him of her love are painful and extraordinarily difficult for her and at the final meeting she regrets their parting and years for him to come back. Of course by then too much damage has been done to make the relationship work and Jerome walks out of her life for the last time.

Years pass and he takes up the invitation to visit Alissa’s sister and they talk and Jerome expresses his belief that he will never be able to marry anyone because he still loves Alissa. At this Juliette takes him into a private room and questions him about if it is possible to love someone all your life and cries in the darkness revealing that despite the marriage to a farmer and five children she is still in love with Jerome.

This revelation at the end shows the dangerous consequences of love that Alissa in her own way tried so hard to avoid. She could not cope with the thought that someone would be hurt, either as a result of disappointment, or because of falling in love with someone else.

A review will follow soon…

Lunchtime read: Strait is the Gate

Sacrificing yourself to some sort of higher ideal is the idea behind Alissa’s treatment of Jerome but it appears to be so pointless. To be closer to God and ensure that their love is no sullied by the experience of the everyday she distances herself from him firstly physically then intellectually. She tones down her appearance to rid herself of any beauty and cleans out of her life anything other than a commitment to peasantry pursuits.

Finally her resistance to Jerome is so complete that they part and she disappears from his view deciding to travel the world to rid himself of his restlessness. Three years pass before they meet again and then in a chance encounter by her garden gate they talk for the last time and as he almost breaks down her barriers with a kiss she closes the gate on him and shuts the door on their love.

He writes appealing to Alissa’s sister expressing his concerns that she is very ill and not far from death. The return letter confirms his fears with the news that Alissa has died.

The sense of waste is palpable and the wonder at why someone would deny themselves love as if they deserved punishment? Real love is all about going through the ups and downs of life but it is importantly about doing them together.

More tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Strait is the Gate

Sacrificing yourself to some sort of higher ideal is the idea behind Alissa’s treatment of Jerome but it appears to be so pointless. To be closer to God and ensure that their love is no sullied by the experience of the everyday she distances herself from him firstly physically then intellectually. She tones down her appearance to rid herself of any beauty and cleans out of her life anything other than a commitment to peasantry pursuits.

Finally her resistance to Jerome is so complete that they part and she disappears from his view deciding to travel the world to rid himself of his restlessness. Three years pass before they meet again and then in a chance encounter by her garden gate they talk for the last time and as he almost breaks down her barriers with a kiss she closes the gate on him and shuts the door on their love.

He writes appealing to Alissa’s sister expressing his concerns that she is very ill and not far from death. The return letter confirms his fears with the news that Alissa has died.

The sense of waste is palpable and the wonder at why someone would deny themselves love as if they deserved punishment? Real love is all about going through the ups and downs of life but it is importantly about doing them together.

More tomorrow…