Despite being only approximately two-thirds the length of The Balkan Trilogy, it took me longer to finish reading The Levant Trilogy.
Olivia Manning is not to blame, but rather the awry emotional state I was in when I read the latter. I even entertained the thought of setting it aside for a lighter read, but I was rewarded for pressing on. I’m glad I trusted the recommendation of friends who thought the trilogies are worth experiencing. As I approached the Levant’s third book, my pace finally picked up and I could hardly put it down again; and by the time I turned the last page, I was not ready to let Guy and Harriet Pringle go.
Among other things, I think the second trilogy is a surprising critique on imperialism and British presence in the Levant. (“Lord, the things we do to other people’s countries.”)
And as I re-viewed the six books mentally, it felt to me like the twenty years of writing between the first volume and the last is a peeling away of life’s layers of unrealistic romanticism; so that by the end, one is left with the stark nakedness of reality — of war, marriage, and life.
Is it a bleak depiction of life? Not entirely. Manning seemed to say that it all depends on how you play the cards you’re dealt.