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July 1, 2022


#Classic Honoré Balzac

by N@ncy


La Cousine Bette by Honoré de Balzac by Honoré de Balzac Honoré de Balzac

Finish date: 27 June 2022
Genre: novel
Rating: D

Good news:
Themes of revenge and deceit are classic in Balzac novels.
Marriage is not the happy state of equality.
Women are expected to be virtuous and men lying cheats.
The book is driven by deceived intimates who do not want to forgive
…and will never forget! I was going to list the main characters who were deceivers and the people they deceive…….it ’s ALL of them!
Book: Cousin Bette Her vengeance is palpable. She is the spin in the web ensnarling unsuspecting family members.


Good news:
Balzac gives us a vivd picture of the hypocracy and deception of marriage. He paints a devastating picture of marriage and love in the aristocracy in 19th C Paris. The book oozes Balzac’s calculated cynisme about the act (of marriage) that society enforces upon us.


Good news:
Lies are hardly the sole form of deception. Deliberate omissions with intent to mislead are much more prevalent! Deny infidelity, intentionally mislead spouses by not disclosing unfaithfulness..that is much easier than lying!
Book: Baron Hulot He can give us all a masterclass in this art of deceit.


Bad news:
I tried to follow the plots …subplots and even made a sketch of
who is deceiving whom? It was very complicated.  Book: Valerie  The top prize for deceit goes to this courtesan. Having become pregnant she decided to convince 5 lovers that each one was a potential father.


Bad news:
Character development was pretty much non-existent.
Baron Hulot was a sex addict and his wife was a saint…aka doormat. Neither one of them changed.
Everybody was either crying or grinding their teeth seething with revenge. There was very little subtlety.


Thank goodness…that book is finished…. It was too long and
not very entertaining….in short, just awful.
If you want to read Balzac please select another book in La Comédie humaine. There are 90 novels and novellas to choose from and I enjoyed Les Chouans (1829, historical fiction) and Le Père Griot(1835). It felt like Balzac was “running out of steam” in 1846 when he wrote La Cousin Bette.

Thomas More in his Dialogue (1534) expressed exactly what I felt while reading this book.
While straws might float, they will not bear the weight of a drowning man.
Balzac was “grasping at straws” in an attempt to succeed in writing book nr 82 in the 90 novel/novella series.
PS: Preferred reading Zola’s series: Les Rougon-Macquart. Only 20 books…but so good!
Zola is a better writer than Balzac…. IMO.
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6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mae Sander
    Jul 2 2022

    Reading those long 19th century novels can be very challenging!

    best… mae

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jul 2 2022

    sorry this one didn’t work for you.
    One day, I want to read the whole Zola series.
    There are some good ones by Balzac though: The Wild Ass’s Skin, for instance, really worked for me (a few decades ago)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jul 6 2022

    Your review made me smile, especially the part about all the characters being liars!


    • Jul 6 2022

      Glad you enjoyed my review! I read “La cousain Bette”
      with a new perspective after reading Jill Hasday’s 2019 book “ Intimate Lies and the Law”
      …very interesting!


  4. Jul 7 2022

    I’ve never read Balzac. PIJ reminds me how ignorant I am with all the books listed!


    • Jul 7 2022

      Oh, I just read Le Monde regularly…and that is how I find some of these current NF books for my #ParisInJuly reading list.
      Victor Hugo’s book is a short novella (classic) and available in English. It was very good!
      Balzac is not really my “cup of tea”…I just read the most famous classics that he wrote.
      Thanks so much for your comments!



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