Warning: If you have not read “Strait is the Gate” by André Gide, do not read this review if you want to avoid spoilers. If you already read the book or you don’t mind spoilers, feel free to read this!
I’m back with another book review, and this time I’m reviewing “Strait is the Gate” by André Gide! I bought the book after the last two books of the “Book Girl” series by Mizuki Nomura made huge references to it, and I was interested in reading the actual story as a result. Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“A delicate boy growing up in Paris, Jerome Palissier spends many summers at his uncle’s house in the Normandy countryside, where the whole world seems ‘steeped in azure’. There he falls deeply in love with his cousin Alissa and she with him. But gradually Alissa becomes convinced that Jerome’s love for her is endangering his soul. In the interests of his salvation, she decides to suppress everything that is beautiful in herself – in both mind and body.”
There are two words I have that sum up this book: Poor Jerome.
Not only does he never end up with Alissa, but even Juliette, Alissa’s sister, ends up in a loveless marriage because of Alissa’s actions. Jerome and Alisssa nearly became engaged before moving off to the Ecole Normale, but Alissa refuses. She does this because she wanted to make sure her sister Juliette could get married first. Jerome is understandably upset, given how much he loves her, but he can never get himself to move on from her and this ultimately leads to a lonely downer ending. Even while there is room to doubt Alissa’s love for Jerome, given that she continues to reject him even after Juliette is married, the last chapter consisting of her personal journals makes it clear that she loved Jerome just as much as he loved her, if not more so.
The problem I have with the entire plot is this: Why didn’t they just get together after Juliette got married? There was no reason not to….oh wait. There was.
Alissa, because of her origins, feels this great shame and seems to feel this need to be completely self-sacrificing to make up for it. Why didn’t any of the other characters just tell her that she shouldn’t feel any shame at her origins because her origins don’t define her? Or at least encourage her to go on with her life the way she really wants to go with it, especially if she has the freedom to do what she wants once Juliette got married? If they had done so, Alissa would have changed her mind about not marrying Jerome, and then the two would get married and be happy together, instead of everyone aging miserably alone until the day they die.
The writing style of the book consists of a lot of religious imagery, and I don’t mean by just Bible quotes. It had so much religious imagery that it got to be a bit much at times, but I still think it was used in interesting ways that I would not have thought of using in the book.
Overall, I rate this book 3 out of 5 stars for the interesting plotline and imagery. I can definitely see where “The Scribe Who Faced God” Parts One and Two could be interested in referring to this and how the situation in this book really worked with the last two “Book Girl” books for sure, and though the plot is for the most part tragic, it’s worth reading.