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There may be some attempt to view this dispassionately as a sensitive novel of childhood, but -- unfortunately- the morbid concentration on every shadow of awakening hero worship, bordering on perversion, thrusts the reader (as well as the young hero and the subjects of his adulation) over the line. The setting is a French Catholic boarding school, and George de Sarre, a new scholar at 14, early learns that his family's prestige entitles him to special consideration, while his innate abilities ensure his achieving scholastic honors. But George is an insufferable egotist; he brooks no interference when his goal is in sight. His first attraction to his dormitory neighbor, Lucien, is stimulated by the seed planted in the peroration of one of the good fathers- the warning against ""special friendships"". The forbidden aspects -- plus curiosity heightened by his knowledge that Lucien is already involved with Andre, an older boy -- carries him far, and when chance puts a weapon against Andre, in his hand he uses it with devastating results. No sooner is Lucien accessible than George's attention wanders. This time it is a child, Alexander, beautiful five years his junior, an untouchable. When finally they meet- the very difficulties in the way intrigue George, and the tortuous workings of his mind, spurred by Lucien as confidante, eventually bring things to the point of discovery- and, for Alexander who is not sacrosanct, expulsion. The Rector, Father Lauzon, the disgraced Father de Trenne (another of George's betrayals)- all have their share in building a wall of morbid obsession with the thought of perversion around boys at an age when the line of demarcation is a tenuous one. The story ends with Alexander's suicide -- with George, rationalizing himself out of a position of repentance, facing a future in which his shallow adolescent posturing, his unbalance, will again be accepted as superiority. An unpleasant book which offers nothing to recommend it to the normal American reader, despite its sale of over 100,000 in France. No Well of Loneliness- this.

Pub Date: Oct. 20th, 1949
Publisher: Vanguard