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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

In Lucia's Eyes

Arthur Japin

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To purchase In Lucia's Eyes

Title: In Lucia's Eyes
Author: Arthur Japin
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003 (Eng. 2005)
Length: 231 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: In Lucia's Eyes - US
In Lucia's Eyes - UK
In Lucia's Eyes - Canada
Un charmant défaut - France
Die Verführung - Deutschland
  • A Novel of Casanova
  • Dutch title: Een schitterend gebrek
  • Translated by David Colmer

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Our Assessment:

B+ : neat fantasy spun out from a small historical detail

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
FAZ . 24/6/2006 Martin Halter
The NY Times Book Rev. . 4/12/2005 Kathryn Harrison
The Observer . 7/8/2005 Laura Baggaley
San Francisco Chronicle . 18/12/2005 Elizabeth Gold

  Review Consensus:

  Enjoyed it

  From the Reviews:
  • "Die Verführung ist selber ein verschleierter Roman, der seine Reize unter einer glatten Oberfläche verbirgt; nicht umsonst war Japin Theater- und Filmschauspieler. (...) Aber im Bildungsroman Lucias, in der Dressur und Emanzipation eines rousseauistischen Wildfangs zur raffinierten Salonschlange, steckt viel von der Dialektik der Aufklärung und in der Leidensgeschichte der verschleierten Fremden" - Martin Halter, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

  • "No matter what the rest of her is like, Lucia is a prostitute with a 24-karat intellect. By the end of a novel that consistently pits reason against emotion, she has found the means to satisfy each." - Kathryn Harrison, The New York Times Book Review

  • "In David Colmer's translation, Japin's characters sometimes share a stilted, intellectual voice, but Lucia exhibits an earthy wit (...) The plot is suspenseful and there are as many dramatic turns in her life as in that of her famous lover. In Lucia's Eyes makes Lucia a figure well worthy of a place in the Casanova mythology." - Laura Baggaley, The Observer

  • "If anything, the loss of her beauty transforms Lucia from an 18th century heroine -- the still center of the plot, the passive recipient of the male gaze -- into a true hero, someone who doesn't wait for things to happen but makes things happen. (...) In Lucia's Eyes can be read as a sly riff on the kind of 18th century novel where a young innocent is forced to leave his or her home -- in this case, the Italian country estate where Lucia was born -- and proceeds to learn the ways of the wicked, wicked world. (...) In Lucia's Eyes has its flaws. Some of the characters Lucia runs into often speak in an interchangeable way. It is hard to tell them apart. Perhaps this is accurate. (...) But Lucia herself is always good and moving company. Intelligent, poignant and, yes, sexy, In Lucia's Eyes is a literary page-turner for those with a brain as well as a heart." - Elizabeth Gold, San Francisco Chronicle

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.

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The complete review's Review:

       In Lucia's Eyes is based on Casanova's life, events briefly mentioned in his memoirs: the Lucia of the title is a girl he knew (and adored) when she was fourteen, and then meets again when she is a disfigured prostitute in Amsterdam less than two decades later, when all that he once saw in her is now lost. Japin imagines her story, and lets her tell it, making of her a different sort of heroine in a clever reimagining of history.
       Lucia and young Giacomo fall in an almost innocent sort of love -- Casanova restraining himself (more or less) because of the girl's tender age, and promising to come back for her when he has to leave the almost idyllic estate where she was raised and which he was visiting.. However, in his absence she becomes infected with and horribly disfigured by smallpox, and can't bear the thought of facing him, and she runs away from home. A smart girl, she picks up learning everywhere she goes, but remains tormented by her appearance.
       Eventually, she comes to hide behind a veil -- and finds that this actually makes her beguiling again, men curious to know what hides behind it. But the veil isn't just so that she can go around without constantly being stared at. It serves her in other ways too:

     I hide the world.
     I have lowered a curtain before it.
     Through that haze of lace and silk it looks so much softer
       As in The Two Hearts of Kwasi Boachi, Japin again brings an outsider to the Netherlands to comment on his homeland. Just as with Kwasi, true acceptance proves much more elusive than tolerance:
It was some time before I realized a thing assumed among the Dutch: Tolerance is not the equal of acceptance. Indeed, the two are more nearly opposites, the former sometimes serving as a subtle means of repression. To accept another is to embrace him unconditionally, now and always. But to tolerate him is to suggest in the same breath that he is rather an inconvenience, like a nagging pain or an unpleasant odor demanding temporary forbearance.
       There are other encounters with Casanova, of course, the great lost love of her life. She can't quite come to terms with it, but by the end seems to have reconciled herself to her fate.
       Japin invents a convincing voice for Lucia, and the life he imagines for her makes for a compelling and engaging story. Less 'a novel of Casanova' than of an outsider dealing with the near-impossibility of being accepted in a way most take for granted, In Lucia's Eyes is a good historical read.

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In Lucia's Eyes: Reviews: Arthur Japin: Other books by Arthur Japin under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Dutch literature at the complete review

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Arthur Japin was born in 1956.

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© 2007-2021 the complete review

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