I love reading works written by the Existentialists, for in their work they lay claim to the thought that once you understand that you will die, then and only then can you truly begin to live. How morbid and powerful at the same time. Michel, after coming so close to Death, wants to know what it truly means to live. Even as he watches his wife slowly fade away under her sickness, he burns with life and a desire to "move forward" at any cost.
To end this review, here is a great line from the book, summing up the central idea of this novel:
When you first knew me, I had a great steadfastness state of mind, and I know that's what makes real men - I have it no longer. But this climate, I believe, is what's responsible for the change. Nothing discourages thought so much as this perpetual blue sky. Here any exertion is impossible, so closely does pleasure follow desire. Surrounded by splendor and by death, I feel happiness too close, and the surrender to it too constant. I lie down in the middle of the day to deceive the dreary prospect of time and its intolerable leisure.