"The Alexandria Quartet," by Lawrence Durrell

Readers of my generation were raised in a literary environment that admired the spare prose of Ernest Hemingway. I remember how stunned I was at reading the first few pages of what was to become "The Alexandria Quartet" of Lawrence Durrell. It was language used as a musical instrument to create imagery, provoke curiosity, and draw the reader into unfamiliar territory in a manner no one else I read was doing.

It was an experimental book, and much has been made of its structure. The first three parts cover an identical time period as experienced by three people; the fourth part moves the action forward in time.

It is not the stuff of a bestseller; critics have noted he uses "big words" and some unfamiliar words — which is precisely how he uses exactly the right word. One of the joys of e-books is that you can right-click on an unfamiliar word and up pops the definition. So look on it as an opportunity to enrich both your vocabulary and your horizons.

Mystery, conflict, exotic locales — how can you go wrong? It will take you a long ways away for a very long time.

James Wallace, Eden Prairie

Quarantine Reads are recommendations by readers of soothing books to get us through fraught times. Send your suggestions, with your name and city, to books@startribune.com