cover image Adrienne Mesurat

Adrienne Mesurat

Julian Green, Julien Green. Holmes & Meier Publishers, $27.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-8419-1193-2

Ah, to be young, beautiful, wealthy and living in the French countryside . . . take it from Adrienne, it's hell. In this reissue of Green's 1926 novel (winner of the Femina Prize and a BOMC selection that year), his heroine has spent all of her life in the Villa des Charmes, a neurasthenic household dominated by her father, a wildly suspicious old man whose only concern is the sanctity of his daily routine, and her bitter older sister, who nurses both a chronic illness and a closely held secret. In Adrienne's oppressed and isolated life, the summer tenant of a neighboring villa becomes the unwholesome focus of the girl's need for friendship, and a passing glance from a middle-aged doctor develops into a romantic obsession with murderous consequences. As he notes in a revealing new preface to this edition, Green was only 26 when he wrote the book, and some of his descriptions are themselves rather callow--the ``sturdy stock'' from which Adrienne springs seems made up largely of stubborn brows and vacant eyes. On the other hand, the unremitting detailing of the Villa's stultifying routine is very effective--so much so that when Adrienne helps remove both sister and father (she to a hospital, he to his death), the depiction of her obsessive guilt over these pathological acts pales by comparison. (July)