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Coup de Grace Paperback – May 1 1981

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 1 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374516316
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374516314
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 249 g
  • Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #975,776 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“The eerie effect of [Yourcenar's] prose . . . is all the more extraordinary in that she was not present in Lithuania in the years immediately following World War I. Her accomplishment is like that of Stephen Crane in The Red Badge of Courage or Stendahl's in the Waterloo chapters of The Charterhouse of Parma.” ―Louis Auchincloss, The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-87) wrote plays, stories, poems, and novels, notable Memoirs of Hadrian. She was the first woman to be elected to the Academie Francaise.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa6e7fbe8) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d0f330) out of 5 stars Intense Unrequited Love set against the Civil Conflict in the Baltics circa 1918-19 Jan. 18 2011
By Kiwifunlad - Published on
Format: Paperback
Erick von Lhomond twenty years later reflects on the events during the time of the Russian Civil War when he was a young man. This relatively short novel focuses on Erick's relationship with a brother and sister, Conrad and Sophie. Set in the Baltics, at Conrad and Sophie's aristocratic home which has been converted into an army barracks, Yourcenar beautifully draws out Sophie's unrequited love for Erick against Erick's indifference and strong comradeship for Conrad. There is an undertone of Erick's lack of interest in women having a gay aspect although Yourcenar never brings this to the surface. This harrowingly tragic novel is vividly and authentically written and based on a true event.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d24a08) out of 5 stars Strange Brew May 23 2013
By JAK - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The back cover of this edition of COUP de GRACE excerpts a quote from a review by the writer- attorney Louis Auchincloss that I suspect is is in line with many readers response to this book.Auchincloss is impressed by Yourcenar's ability to capture post WW1 Lithuania.The thing is the book isn't set in Lithuania and doesn't have all that specific a feel to it.Bluntly , it could be set in 1890s Ruritania as easily as it 's actual setting ,which is Latvia- not Lithuania circa 1919(Auchincloss's error is inadvertently telling).The book is quite claustrophobic.Almost all of the action takes place in an isolated country house among a small group of people.You get little feel of a larger world ; let alone the nuances of any culture ,nation or time.

The two main characters are Erick and Sophie and there is no need to mince words about them, they are to say the least queer ducks.Erick is a German soldier who after WW1 goes to Latvia(I think Kurland or Courland) to fight against the Bolsheviks.He is of Balt(ethnic German) extraction and spent much of his childhood in the country.Sophie is someone he's known since childhood.She is the sister of a dear friend.They all wind up living in the same house.Sophie loves Erick.He does not love Sophie.One may think he should love Sophie but I think the key here is Erick is gay.The book doesn't quite say that but it comes real close.Rejected , Sophie in effect destroys herself in a manner that is simply depressing.The consequences of"limousine liberalism " being quite fatal in this civil war.

I will readily admit, what I have described sounds awful ! It isn't . This is a strange and ultimately gripping novel.It's characters are rather cracked but their destinies moving .Yourcenar is a writer who displays considerable psychological depth and her case studies wind up being compelling.Just avoid approaching this novel as a historical novel.It isn't.The sensibility here is is"symbolist" or "decadent" .It reminds me more of a Moreau painting than the RED BADGE OF COURAGE.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6d08204) out of 5 stars a slanted orientation Aug. 30 2001
By Doug Anderson - Published on
Format: Paperback
This novella which takes place during the national and ethnic conflicts in Eastern Europe at the time of WW1 explores life through the eyes of a soldier and his two best friends. The soldier however has a code by which he lives and he conducts himself with utmost respect to this code and this code only. Tragedy follows. This may remind a few readers of some of Conrads short works that deal withthe same theme. Yourcenar's working of this material is stretched to novella length though and will try some readers patience as the character is not all that fascinating, what is fascinating is how the writing never wavers(not too much anyway)or tells too much. She lets the character live the consequences of his chosen code. There is a wonderful scene toward the end where the main character seems baffled by his own existence. Not a masterpiece of a novella but to readers who like fiction of this length this is an exercise in the possibilities of the form. Yourcenars introductory essay is very interesting on this point.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6edc330) out of 5 stars Masterpiece Feb. 15 2012
By Petronius - Published on
Format: Paperback
Yourcenar's "Coup de Grace" is a masterpiece of economy of language. It is incredible what she says by suggestion. This style well epitomizes the social mores of the time setting of the story, in which so much was barely acknowledged or left unsaid. The work should be especially interesting for writers to see how much can be said by leaving a conclusion left unsaid, or left as an inference. Readers will love all of Yeorcenar's works, but especially this short read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa6edc93c) out of 5 stars A Story for its Time and Ours May 16 2013
By John Burt Foster, Jr. - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Petronius hits the nail on the head, when he links this book to the tormented 1930s, and to a time when nothing was expressed directly, and you had to read between the lines. If you want a full-blast exposure to the mood just before World War II, read this book! The harsh conditions of ideological tension and confused battle that Yourcenar depicts resonate with a lot that has been happening today in the Middle East.
It's fascinating to read this book alongside the Schlondorff movie, which shifts the story over much more to the woman's point of view, as acted by Margarete von Trotta. The two versions make for a perfect contrast between limited first-person and omniscient points of view on the action.

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