Strait is the Gate
I found this book to be entirely engaging and pretty devastating, especially at the end. We meet Jerome, a young man from a Parisian family who family troubles lead him to becoming increasingly more connected with his extended family. This brings him into contact with his cousin Alissa. The two fall in love with each other, but cannot discuss or talk about it. But the reasons they can’t aren’t entirely because of their family connections but more so because of their inability to speak of it and be in each other’s presence, but also because of an increasing family duty that Alissa experiences that manifests in a devout religion duty. As they get older, they exchange letters, intense letters, and meet up many times over, but they still find themselves unable to connect in meaningful ways.
This was a book I started with a cup of coffee and read voraciously until I was completed. I felt very compelled to continue reading and by the end I found myself really touched and saddened by the gulfs in between the two would-be lovers.
I reminded me of an older, religiously themed version of Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, without the humor and irony, but one in which the inability of two people who lover each other to find themselves able to process, speak, and present their love to one another.
There’s a long section that closes this novel off where Alissa’s personal diaries (as opposed to merely her letters and dialog, Jerome being the narrator of this novel) give us her own sad version of events.