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by Terry Castle,Françoise Mallet-Joris

Bored and lonely, 15-year-old Hélène decides to pay a visit to her father’s mistress. Within days, she is captivated by Tamara, a Russian émigré whose arts of enchantment include lingering kisses, sudden dismissals, and savage, rapturous reunions. As long as she submits to Tamara, Hélène is permitted to stay near her: reading forbidden novels, meeting Tamara’s bohemian friends, and learning more “refinements of depravity” than the gossiping matrons of her provincial French town could imagine existed.Flemish writer Françoise Mallet-Joris was 20 years old in 1951 when her first novel, Le Rempart des Beguines — published in English as The Illusionist — created a sensation in France. This contemplative, beautifully written book, with its dark undercurrents of desire, has its origins in Madame Bovary and the novels of Colette, and was a precursor to Françoise Sagan’s similarly themed Bonjour Tristesse.
Download The Illusionist epub
ISBN: 1573442534
ISBN13: 978-1573442534
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Genre Fiction
Author: Terry Castle,Françoise Mallet-Joris
Language: English
Publisher: Cleis Press; 1 edition (August 11, 2006)
Pages: 264 pages
ePUB size: 1135 kb
FB2 size: 1145 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 867
Other Formats: doc lrf azw mobi

As already stated I am studying Mallet-Joris' writings at present and like her very much as a Belgian author living in Paris.

This is her second novel and I liked it, however not so much as some of her later work. In this and her first novel you may encounter the most of the allusions to her home-town Antwerp in Belgium.

The writing of her first two novels, however at that time they made something of a scandal, gave her the possibility to achieve financial independence for her and her son, who were still supported by her former husband.
I don't know what I expected, maybe something more evocative of the place and time. It's a very "told" story, not shown, lacking in convincing detail. It may well be an impressive accomplishment for a nineteen-year-old author, but that is not saying much. The first person narrator is a sheltered girl of fifteen to sixteen, and the narrative is predictably dull as a result of her naivete, and of the remove. It was a waste of time for me, perhaps interesting as a period piece. Not entirely without insight, but there are so many better books.
I'm giving this book 2 stars, there is good writing. The story itself is rather dark, and you'd make a mistake if you were led to conclude that a nineteen-year-old author in 1952 cannot be all that bad of a read (as I thought). The story centers around a 15-year-old girl who is left alone at her home much of the time. Her mother passed away when she was younger, to young to remember, her father has his own business and is a workaholic. The service personnel try to tend to her as best as possible, but most of the time, the girl is bored. Her father tells her about a mistress he has in town, hoping to avoid her finding out in a more unsavory way. She's intrigued. One day her father asks her to call the mistress and deliver an excuse for him, that he cannot see her til later in the evening. He adds the woman's address thinking it is not out of place that she have it should an emergency arise. The girl decides to deliver the excuse in person and runs across the neighborhood to reach the woman's apartment. That is the beginning of what I can best describe as a sordid relationship. There is physical abuse, mental manipulation, distasteful handling at a woman's bar, etc. I was quite surprised by the story, to say the least. The writing was good, however with such a story I will not add this to my bookshelf.
This book, which I've only just caught up with, is undoubtedly beautifully executed and an amazing achievement for a 19-year-old. However (well, of course there's a "but"), I take strong exception to the portrayal of a lesbian affair in such sado-masochistic terms. At one point the hard, street-wise Tamara actually gives the young girl - the daughter of her lover, no less - a savage beating. Imagine, if you will, a heterosexual couple in which the man of the outfit does this to his girl - it would cause outrage among feminists, surely! I'm afraid, for me, this book, while impressively written, stays in the disappointing category of lesbians as dominatrix-style users. If this is a "lesbian classic" give me Claudine at School...
What a fascinating study in relationship power dynamics -- in dominance and submission, in experience corrupting the loving and vulnerable.

This isn't just a book for lesbians. It's a book for anyone who has ever had their heart on a leash held by someone removed and narcissistic enough to relish the power.

Of course, the treatment of broke, artistic independence vs. domesticated stability is still relevant. It's especially interesting to see how this conflict influences a lesbian love affair. Virginia Woolf would have enjoyed this book with a glass of wine or two, I have a feeling.

A few passages were indulgent in their descriptions and twice as long as they needed to be, but almost every author steps in that pothole once or twice.

Overall, I am gratefully amazed that a publisher in the 1950s was bold enough to invest in the sexual insights of a precocious 19 year old writing about a lesbian relationship, which included a character who was really just a dominatrix in plain clothes.

I'm surprised it took me this long to hear about "The Illusionist." In terms of sexual and romantic insight, it was so far ahead of its time. I suspect people weren't and maybe still aren't ready to appreciate it.
Fantastic novel of its era. Castle's introduction a wonderful addition and informative of the time period.
How surprising that the author of this provocative novel was only 19-years-old. How does a 19-year-old gain such experience, such insight, such maturity? Exceedingly well-written, intense, psychological, dark, lovely. The reader is captured, held hostage to the story.
I really enjoyed this book...there isn't a lot of lesbian fiction and this one was done well, not "trashy" more like softly suggested. It reads quickly, too.