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the Complete Review
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Louis Couperus

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To purchase Ecstasy

Title: Ecstasy
Author: Louis Couperus
Genre: Novel
Written: 1892 (Eng. 1892)
Length: 157 pages
Original in: Dutch
Availability: Ecstasy - US
Ecstasy - UK
Ecstasy - Canada
Ecstasy - India
  • Title of original: Extase
  • Translated by Alexander Teixteira de Mattos and John Gray

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Our Assessment:

B : simple, somewhat overwrought story of absolute passion

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Dial . 29/11/1919 .
The Nation . 13/12/1919 .
The NY Times Rev. of Books . 26/10/1919 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "(T)his book is frail, delicate, mystical, written with a light, yet firm touch which saves it from falling into those twin perils of absurdity and pathos which hedge it around. (...) It is a delicate, frail, poetic, and somewhat unreal love story of the transcendental type, told with a great deal of skill." - The New York Times Review of Books

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:

       Ecstasy focusses on Cecile Van Even. Recently widowed, and well to do, she has two young children and has not spent much time in society since the death of her husband. At her sister's house she meets Taco Quaerts, a good friend of her brother-in-law's. He has something of a reputation, and she doesn't like that sort of thing, so she isn't particularly pleased, but, of course there's something about him .....
       Things come as they must, and eventually:

She felt this magnetism attracting her so violently that every power in her melted into heaviness and weakness.
       She succumbs, with a passion she has never felt before. But Taco is a complex fellow, as Cecile recognizes:
       "You feel everything," she said, almost in alarm. "You are a dangerous person."
       Things get headier and headier, their passion is overwhelming, culminating, finally, in -- surprise ! -- absolute ecstasy. And what a fine thing that is -- except, of course, that when one has it all there's nowhere to go but back down to earth:
       He pressed her head to his shoulder again. He smiled, and she did not see that there was melancholy in his laugh, for she was blind with light.
       And so, after this taste of ecstasy, there is the day (and days) after -- which Cecile doesn't take quite so well. But eventually all is set more or less right.

       Couperus' novel is focussed almost completely on this singular, ill-fated passion. It's hard to keep the dramatic tension going when one relies just on something like that, but he manages to do it well enough. The novel isn't quite convincing -- largely because of the extremely narrow focus -- but a quite fast-paced (almost too fast, in part) read of some entertainment value.
       Cecile and Taco both are quite well-drawn (if not sufficiently fully), as are some of the other characters. The one very jarring element is Cecile's moody, occasionally almost hysterical nephew, Jules, who is completely devoted to Taco. One understands what Couperus was trying to do with the character -- he just doesn't do it very well.
       A veritable roller-coaster of emotion and passion (and disappointment), with the background of (at least superficially) prim and proper turn-of-the-century Dutch society, Ecstasy is an amusing mix of old-fashioned and daring -- certainly not the kind of book one finds being written any more.

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Ecstasy: Louis Couperus: Other books by Louis Couperus under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Dutch author Louis Couperus lived 1863 to 1923.

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