Coup de Grace Paperback – May 1 1981
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“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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.