Clea, Lawrence Durrell, E P Dutton & Company, 1960, 287 pp
Sadly, I have come to the end of The Alexandria Quartet*. It has been a revelatory reading experience and I now see why this dated collection is still read, praised, even loved.
I found Clea the weakest of the four, perhaps because Durrell is winding down, as is the historic city of Alexandria. (These days it is considered an unsafe location for tourists.) During the time covered by Clea, the British Empire's heyday is coming to a close. In his inimitable way, Durrell infuses all of this into a sad farewell.
Clea, who had always been a shadowy presence in the earlier novels, now has her day. She is an artist, a painter. Of all the women in the Quartet, she comes across as the most well balanced; a sort of Earth Mother figure and the feminist of the bunch. The nararator (whom I assume is Durrell himself) finally has a love affair with her. He is older and wiser now, but Clea is wiser still.
*The Books of the Alexandria Quartet:
(Clea is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)