It is an action-packed story that deals with all his favourite themes — financial greed, sexual desire, and the drive for social status — plus some spectacular examples of successful and failed revenge. The setting is upper-class society in Paris, most of whose inhabitants are ruthless social climbers, wallowing in financial corruption, adultery, and a world of polite hypocrisy. This was a newspaper featuring commerce, politics, and literature. In the novel appeared in book format, published by Chlendowski.
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Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Francine Prose Introduction. Kathleen Raine Translator. Poor, plain spinster Bette is compelled to survive on the condescending patronage of her socially superior relatives in Paris: her beautiful, saintly cousin Adeline, the philandering Baron Hulot and their daughter Hortense.
Already deeply resentful of their wealth, when Bette learns that the man she is in love with plans to marry Hortense, she becomes consumed by the desir Poor, plain spinster Bette is compelled to survive on the condescending patronage of her socially superior relatives in Paris: her beautiful, saintly cousin Adeline, the philandering Baron Hulot and their daughter Hortense.
Already deeply resentful of their wealth, when Bette learns that the man she is in love with plans to marry Hortense, she becomes consumed by the desire to exact her revenge and dedicates herself to the destruction of the Hulot family, plotting their ruin with patient, silent malice.
Cousin Bette is a gripping tale of violent jealousy, sexual passion and treachery, and a brilliant portrayal of the grasping, bourgeois society of 's Paris. The culmination of the Comedie humaine, Balzac's epic chronicle of his times, it is one of his greatest triumphs as a novelist. Get A Copy. Paperback , pages. Published February 12th by Modern Library first published More Details Original Title.
Paris France. Other Editions Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Cousin Bette , please sign up. I really want to try Balzac. Which book should I begin reading first? Yana Stajno I'm reading Cousin Bette. It's a fascinating study of spite. It's also a study of the layers of societal structures in the post-Napoleonic era.
I woul …more I'm reading Cousin Bette. I would recommend it as a foray into Balzac. See 1 question about Cousin Bette…. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Average rating 3. Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Start your review of Cousin Bette. Jul 06, Petra-X rated it really liked it Shelves: reviewed , fiction. This is a soap opera masquerading as a classic.
It has all the right ingredients. Lots of French classics have a woman who exploits her looks but is eventually brought low. He's going to have his revenge too. Everyone gets their just desserts in the end, except, mystifingly, the Baron who on his saintly wife's demise marries a servant girl and is happy as a hare in clover satisfied with his comfortable life and lots of sex.
Balzac did write this as a series and it is both light fiction and great literature. It explores the themes of wealth, beauty, cruelty, passion and religion in an elegant fashion.
This is what makes it such a good read, a good plot, great characters and plenty of depth to flesh out the story into a real experience. But 4 stars rather than 5 because it does take a bit of wading through.
View all 13 comments. Jan 10, J. Sutton rated it really liked it. Compelling and unsavory characters drew me into Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette The main plot centers on Cousin Bette's revenge on her family; however, all the stories which make up the novel are imbued by obsessions which drive the narrative to its dark end. The layers of detail allow readers to immerse themselves in early 19th ce Compelling and unsavory characters drew me into Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette The layers of detail allow readers to immerse themselves in early 19th century French society in general and more specifically in the depiction of the drawn out spiteful vengeance Bette exacts on her family.
Once immersed, it can be overwhelming to stand in Balzac's world, but it's probably as close as any of us will get to hanging out with scheming relatives in 19th century France. Apr 29, Perry rated it liked it Shelves: libri-classici. It seemed realistic and true to the human condition Balzac wrote Cousin Bette in in France at the height of the "libertine" philosophy holding that one need not be restrained by the morals of society, including monogamy and marriage, but should instead seek out and enjoy all of life's pleasures particularly a variety of sexual partners with no regard to harm done to others Note: my uneducated synopsis of Libertinism, which also fits my idea of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah.
Here, money and sex are bartering and blackmail chips; virtues like honor and loyalty take second seat to instant gratification and debauchery. Guilt and regret are non-existent. The name is somewhat misleading.
Cousin Bette is the old maid jilted by her infatuation for Wenceslas in favor of her angelic cousin Hortense Hurlot. As a result, she schemes to ruin the Hurlot family through a temptress named Madame Marneffe, who is as easy as an old shoe. Daddy Hurlot and the Mayor are also sleeping with the Mdme. I cannot start describing the rest of the story without going down a path littered with raunch and degradation. I wanted to read at least one Balzac novel so I picked this one and read it a few summers back [review updated from then].
I give it 4 stars because there is something to be said for keeping all this straight and being the primary trailblazer of realism in fiction.
Plus this is just a part of a larger, loosely-tied sequence of novels and short stories, La Comedie humaine , in which Balzac presented his panoramic view of life in France after Napoleon's downfall in So many great authors followed his lead in the 20th century in Europe and America and set the world afire down so many different paths toward truth and humanity that are each so unique.
View all 6 comments. Dec 05, Jonfaith rated it it was amazing. Despite some narrative leaps and a reversal of fortune for several of the characters, I truly loved this novel. It was a perfect, snowy weekend for such. The pacing, except for the end, was sublime and supported with equal measures of vitriol and detail.
There is much to say about a family in decline, if not peril. Jan 24, Chrissie rated it liked it Shelves: hf , audible , classics , relationships , france , love , read. I am no literary critic. I will merely try and express what I experienced while reading this book. I am glad I read it, but I admire the author's opus more than I enjoyed it. Honestly, it was often a struggle. It has a very slow start. The book's narrator, after a third of the way through, states that only now will the story begin.
All that before had just been an introduction to the characters! That "introduction" doesn't read as a normal introduction; you are thrown into events that you scarce I am no literary critic. That "introduction" doesn't read as a normal introduction; you are thrown into events that you scarcely comprehend. Often I was confused, and so also upset, but always I did eventually come to understand what was happening.
There are lots of characters. Actually, the number is not the main problem. The confusion is caused by the immense amount of details thrown at you. When I begin a book, I have no idea where the book is leading so I try and remember e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I was swamped. From all these details the author does periodically summarize and clarify so you do understand.
Thematically a testament to female vindictiveness, Cousin Bette recounts the story of Lisbeth Fischer, an embittered, unmarried peasant woman who hides her envy and hatred behind a mask of kindness as she attempts to ruin the Hulot family. She succeeds up to a point, but eventually the family regains its wealth through judicious and fortuitous marital and business connections. Bette herself, bitterly disappointed, sickens and dies. Cousin Bette. Info Print Cite.
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Poor, plain spinster Bette is compelled to survive on the condescending patronage of her socially superior relatives in Paris: her beautiful, saintly cousin Adeline, the philandering Baron Hulot and their daughter Hortense. Already deeply resentful of their wealth, when Bette learns that the man she is in love with plans to marry Hortense, she becomes consumed by the desire to exact her revenge and dedicates herself to the destruction of the Hulot family, plotting their ruin with patient, silent malice. Marion Ayton Crawford's lively translation is accompanied by an introduction discussing the novel's portrayal of rapidly changing times, as the new, ambitious middle classes replaced France's old imperial ways. Honore de Balzac. Balzac turned exclusively to fiction at the age of thirty and went on to write a large number of novels and short stories set amid turbulent nineteenth-century France.