EDMUND MARLOWE'S ALEXANDER’S CHOICE REVIEWED BY CUTHBERT
Alexander’s Choice, a love story set at England’s most famous boarding-school, Eton College and written by old boy Edmund Marlowe, was published in December 2012. The following review of it was published on Amazon.co.uk on 6 August 2014.
WARNING: This review contains spoilers.
An Underappreciated Gem *****
A number of great reviews have already been written of this novel and so I will not waste time summarizing it or offering platitudinous praise and instead discuss something that does not seem to have been covered elsewhere. This novel has often been compared to Peyerfitte’s Les amities Particulieres. Both are set in a boys boarding school, both revolve around a young beautiful boy named Alexander, both involve pederastic relationships and both end with the protagonists suicide. The similarities are however only surface level. The most obvious difference is the degree of sexual content present. Les amities Particulieres is largely chaste whereas Alexander’ Choice portrays the sexual elements involved in such relationships more honestly and frankly. These scenes are handled tastefully and never descend into mere licentiousness but may sadly still be off-putting to some readers.
Where the two novels differ most starkly however is in the nature of their suicides. Alexander Motier (Les amities Particulieres) kills himself because he has been tricked; he incorrectly believes that Georges no longer loves him. This creates dramatic irony as the reader knows that Alexander need not kill himself. Motier’s suicide is caused by his naivety and his lack of understanding of the situations he is in. The exact opposite is true of Alexander Aylmer (Alexander’s Choice) he only kills himself when he fully understands the situation. Alexander’s Choice is at its core a coming of age story, Alexander begins the novel wholly naïve of sex, relationships and society more generally. Throughout the novel Alexander gains more knowledge until by the end he fully understands his situation. He kills himself because of what he knows rather than what he does not know. When reading these novels one could imagines oneself saving Motier, talking him out of suicide but with Aylmer I don't think anything could be said to stop him, he already understands the situation completely. Things become so bleak, so unrelenting and yet still so real that suicide seems appropriate. Though to be clear this is not a novel that romanticizes or glorifies suicide, it simply seeks to condemn the society which makes such outcomes inevitable.
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