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Cousin Betty

Honoré de Balzac

Book Overview: 

Set in mid-19th-century France, it tells the story of a woman who resents her position as a "poor relation." As we follow her schemes to bring ruin upon the more privileged members of her family, we see a society in transition. The stability and idealism of the old order give way to a new bourgeois world in which virtue is strangled in the struggle for power and money.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Arts," she cried, clapping her hands and jumping. "I will tell you everything——"

"What, is there more to come?" asked her father, smiling.

The child's complete and effervescent innocence had restored her father's peace of mind.

"A confession of the first importance," said she. "I loved him without knowing him; and, for the last hour, since seeing him, I am crazy about him."

"A little too crazy!" said the Baron, who was enjoying the sight of this guileless passion.

"Do not punish me for confiding in you," replied she. "It is so delightful to say to my father's heart, 'I love him! I am so happy in loving him!'—You will see my Wenceslas! His brow is so sad. The sun of genius shines in his gray eyes—and what an air he has! What do you think of Livonia? Is it a fine country?—The idea of Cousin Betty's marrying that young fellow! She might be his mother. It would be murder! I am quite jealous. . . Read More

Community Reviews

After a run of reading more modern books that have left me underwhelmed I thought it was time to remind myself of how great a novel can be. I had had this sitting on my shelf for a while but was feeling too tired to commit to 450 pages and the exertions of flipping back and forth to the notes explai

Pro Tip:
Honoré de Balzac isn't a name that someone with a Southern accent has an easy time with, and I walked around for a week telling everyone that I was reading a book by someone whose name was Ballsack. Honestly, I should have just listened to the book, shut up, and kept my redneck pronunciation

This book had good moments but I'm disappointed I didn't enjoy it more than I did. It's about a jealous old spinster paying her family back for decades of being treated as inferior for being the ugly cousin. She teams up with the beautiful Madame Marneffe (cue the homoerotic undertones) to destroy t

Compelling (and unsavory) characters drew me into Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette (1846). 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. Much of how I described Balzac

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

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