Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada



In association with Amazon.it - Italia

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Closed Garden
(Adrienne Mesurat)

Julien Green

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Adrienne Mesurat

Title: The Closed Garden
Author: Julien Green
Genre: Novel
Written: 1927 (Eng. 1928)
Length: 403 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Adrienne Mesurat - US
Adrienne Mesurat - UK
Adrienne Mesurat - Canada
Adrienne Mesurat - Canada (French)
Adrienne Mesurat - France
Adrienne Mesurat - Deutschland
Adrienne Mesurat - Italia
Adrienne Mesurat - España
  • French title: Adrienne Mesurat
  • English translation originally published as The Closed Garden (1928)
  • Revised translation published as Adrienne Mesurat (1991)
  • Translated by Henry Longon Stuart
  • Translation revised by Marilyn Gaddis Rose (1991)

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

A- : effectively detailed and overwrought

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Internationale Revue . (10) 1927-1929 Walter Benjamin
The NY Rev. of Books . 5/12/1991 John Weightman
Publishers Weekly . 1/7/1991 .
Sunday Times . 21/10/1928 Ralph Straus
Time . 28/5/1928 .
TLS . 23/6/1927 Mary Duclaux
Die Zeit . 2/11/1979 Hans Platschek
Die Zeit . 14/12/2000

  From the Reviews:
  • "Wirklich ist der Roman dem Naturalismus niemals ferner gewesen als in diesem Werk. (...) Greens Abstand von dem üblichen Typus des Romanciers ist in der Kluft zwischen Vergegenwärtigung und Schilderung einbegriffen. Green schildert die Menschen nicht, er vergegenwärtigt sie in schicksalhaften Momenten. (...) Adrienne Mesurat gehört gleich Stendhals Romanen einer Gattung von Werken an, deren Aktualität im Zeitpunkt ihres Erscheinens latent ist, so daß kaum einer sich ihrer versieht, und erst im Licht des Nachruhms erkennbar wird, wodurch sie das Innerste ihrer Epoche bekunden." - Walter Benjamin, Internationale Revue

  • "Ah, to be young, beautiful, wealthy and living in the French countryside ... take it from Adrienne, it's hell. (...) Green was only 26 when he wrote the book, and some of his descriptions are themselves rather callow (...) On the other hand, the unremitting detailing of the Villa's stultifying routine is very effective" - Publishers Weekly

  • "It is an extremely fine piece of work, though I fancy that Mr. Green could have told it at half the length without any loss." - Ralph Straus, Sunday Times

  • "A French reader, gazing on them, feels as if he had looked in his looking-glass and seen there a face not his own. None the less, these terrible Mesurats are human beings, passionately interesting, and we follow their fortunes spellbound. Odious as they are (...) they compel our attention, for M. Julien Green has already acquired the art of a fine novelist: he goes his own way, at his own pace, and we follow him." - Mary Duclaux, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Green zeichnet die Figur mit einer Genauigkeit, die keinen Schweißtropfen, keine fahrige Bewegung und keinen Blick aus dem Fenster ausläßt. Ohne diese Überschärfe würden sich Adriennes Verwirrungen, wie diejenigen Wilfreds, in Rhetorik und Gefühlsschlamm auflösen. (...) Viele Leute, die das Buch aus der Hand legen, fühlen sich noch über Stunden hinweg verstört." - Hans Platschek, Die Zeit

  • "Green verabscheute die Psychoanalyse, er wollte dem Wahnsinn seine Majestät nicht rauben und gab sich mit noch so behutsamen Versuchen, Adriennes Wahnsinn verständlich zu machen, nicht ab. Wahnsinn ist das Leben, zu dem die verkümmerte Adrienne erwacht, Wahnsinn schläft unter der dünnen grauen Decke provinzieller Gewohnheiten. Wie das "irre Mädchen" auf dem Gemälde von Füßli, das ein Künstler à la Max Ernst ausgeschnitten und in den Stahlstich eines Salons geklebt hat, schaut Adrienne mit durchbohrendem Blick durch den Leser hindurch. Phädras Verzweiflung und das schauerlichste Grand-Guignol bilden die Mischung dieser eigentümlich parodistischen Kolportage, die Greens Ruhm begründete." - Martin Mosebuch, Die Zeit

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

- Return to top of the page -

The complete review's Review:

       The Closed Garden, now published under its original French title (and the name of its central figure), Adrienne Mesurat, is set in small-town La Tour de l'Evêque, in 1908. Eighteen-year-old Adrienne Mesurat lives in the so-called Villa des Charmes in the blandest of bourgeois comfort with her sixty-year-old retired father, a man of the most basic routines, and her long-ailing sister, Germaine, seventeen years her senior; their mother passed away fifteen years earlier and Germaine had taken on a role closer to mother than sister (though without the energy to make much of an impression in either). The Mesurats have essentially no social circle, close neither to family nor any outsiders, and live the dullest of lives. Sickly Germaine spends all her time listlessly aswoon, while old Mesurat sticks to a simple, satisfying routine; the novel opens with Adrienne with duster in hand, bored silly.
       This is an almost claustrophobically domestic novel, the Villa des Charmes a hold -- in father Mesurat's controlling hands -- that has tightened around the two women and which Adrienne, in particular, now feels increasingly constricting. It is a functioning household, to all appearances, but the adults are blind to anything beyond their most limited, self-absorbed purviews, and Adrienne, so used to this: "tyranny of custom", barely able to imagine anything beyond. It is a triste locale -- and even before Mesurat really clamps down and isolates them further the description rings true:

Nothing can be imagined more dismal than this garden, half hidden by the dusk, sodden and streaming.
       Adrienne's horizons are extremely limited: no dreams of Paris for her ("She had been there several times and had brought back nothing save a disagreeable sensation of confusion and feverishness"), as instead she can do little more than dream of and scheme for the best window vantage point over the nearby streets, as her horizons extend no further. She has neither much imagination nor ambition, and doesn't even lose herself in books or the like:
Adrienne always waited in the parlor until lunch was served, and passed the time as best she might. Often, as before, she put on an apron above her black serge dress and wiped the furniture, over which she felt quite sure Desirée's duster never passed. Or else she amused herself by taking the books out of their shelves, brushing their backs with a clothes brush, and putting them back in order of size. It never occurred to her to read one.
       For her father, Adrienne remains stuck in time and place: after she reached age fifteen, she: "was never to appear a year older in the imagination of her father" -- and the discrepancy between reality and his picture of her is widening. With little to look forward to beyond the endlessly repetitive day-to-day, Adrienne anticipates the arrival of seasonal neighbor, Madame Legras -- and talks herself into a passion for the local doctor she has glimpsed, the far too old for her (he is forty five) Maurecourt. Stealthily venturing out on her own in the most tentative of explorations of the greater world on a few evenings, Adrienne begins to show the barest signs of independence -- only to be called back in line by her father and sister.
       The Villa des Charmes then becomes even more of a prison, kept under even tighter lock and key by Mesurat. Surprisingly -- and rather out of character --, it's the otherwise so impassive Germaine that rebels first:
     "Adrienne," said Germaine, so steadily as to surprise her younger sister, "I have made up my mind to leave this house."
     "Leave this house ? What an idea !"
     "I have no intention of discussing it with you," replied Germaine in a harsh and uneven voice. "Yu must see that I can't go on living here at my age, under the control of a man who will not even allow me to stay in bed when I like when it is necessary. Besides, the climate here is execrable. Look how cold it is this morning, after all these roasting days. It is enough to kill anyone. What I need is warmth and sunshine and an even temperature. And I must be free. Papa is growing terribly old. He is a tyrant -- yes, a tyrant !
       Germaine needs Adrienne's help -- and some of her saved-up ready cash -- to make good her stealthy escape and Adrienne gladly helps, happy to be free of her sister's burdensome presence. Papa does not take to it so well, when he discovers his daughter gone -- and Adrienne's hand in helping free her -- and he vows to come down even harder now, on both his children. Before he's able to, Adrienne herself lashes out -- and Mesurat comes down harder than he had expected, in quite a different way. And suddenly, practically overnight, Adrienne finds herself freed of both these oppressive family members that had been holding her down and back.
       Adrienne is, of course, as unequipped to deal with any sort of freedom and independence as with anything else. (The slightly guilty conscience presumably doesn't help either .....) From the first, Madame Legras has been friendly to the young woman, but she's a manipulative spirit with, it turns out, issues of her own to deal with, and their connection remains superficial. (Of course, Adrienne seems incapable of any depth to any relationship, apparently never managing any sort of closer friendship.) Doctor Maurecourt's sister vows to keep Adrienne at a distance from him, when that's the only hold still alive in her imagination -- while the good doctor himself proves surprisingly sensible and understanding (indeed, the only such character in the entire story) and readily diagnoses her:
     "You are highly nervous, mademoiselle. You are falling, little by little, into a state of despondency from which you may never be cured if you do not make an immediate effort. You must see more people; above all, trust in others more than you do. There are many things in you that have no right to be there, and which the sole fact that you brood upon them renders acute. You have certain thoughts shut up within yourself that have ended by acting on you as poison."
       Of course, he's a bit late with the diagnosis -- and apparently doesn't realize just how deep Adrienne's madness has already sunk in.
       The Closed Garden is all about Adrienne, the narrative following closely in her footsteps and her childish, bored, and confused mind. The marvel of it is in Green's relentless gaze -- and the stultifying atmosphere surrounding her, so beautifully and horribly captured. It is a feverish near-dream, Adrienne either practically sleepwalking through her dull routines -- picking up that duster -- or impulsively acting out (only just as quickly to change her mind, or pretend nothing happened, as she doesn't want to face the consequences of her actions). Her state of denial is acute, almost instinctive; brought up in a world where change is practically not permitted, where all is routine, she can try to escape back into the safety of that even at the most terrible moment:
Everything she was doing now -- these familiar gestures, which she was repeating once again -- afforded her a sort of animal joy, unreasoning enough, but which she could have explained in something like these words: "Things must be going on perfectly well. Nothing can have changed, since I am going to bed as usual, since I open my window -- chafe my shoulders." She blew out the lamp and dived between the sheets.
       Typically then also -- because it removes her from everything familiar -- Adrienne's one greater adventure elsewhere, a short trip she takes, to simply go somewhere in the greater (yet still oh so circumscribed) world, is comic in her indecisive failures.
       The Closed Garden goes where it must; there was never much hope for Adrienne -- but then given her so limited experience, she wouldn't know a happy ending if she saw it. It's a terrible portrait -- but a horribly-expertly rendered one. The art is in the presentation, and Green's uncompromising approach here works very well indeed.
       The Closed Garden is not a pleasant novel, but it is a quite remarkable one.

- M.A.Orthofer, 4 May 2019

- Return to top of the page -


Adrienne Mesurat: Reviews: Julien Green: Other books by Julien Green under review: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       French-writing American author Julien (also: Julian) Green lived 1900 to 1998.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2019-2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links