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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

This is the third time I have read this late masterpiece of Balzac's -- and it got better with each reading. There have been other novels (mostly European) about men who have ruined themselves for illicit love of other women, but Balzac's Baron Hector Hulot goes further than any of them. At the begi


If you fancy yourself a moralist, you may wanna skip this one. As the undoubted precursor to/playbook for modern-day soap operas, Cousin Bette involves:
marital cruelty, sexual blackmail, spite-filled revenge, prostitution, unconscionable adultery, women with irresistibl

This is a soap opera masquerading as a classic. It has all the right ingredients.

* A husband, a baron, who has spent all the family money on other women.

* A wife who justifies acting like a doormat by saying it is religious feminine submission.

* An in-law who threatens to put the kybosh on any po

Ich würde gerne Balzac mögen, denn ich kann durchaus seine Bedeutung für die Literaturgeschichte erkennen. Sein unbändiger Drang, dem Mensch und der Gesellschaft den Spiegel vorzuhalten, ist beachtlich. In den beiden bislang von mir gelesenen Werken Eugenie Grandet und Tante Lisbeth ist die Darstell

This tale involves a byzantine plan of revenge by old maid Bette over the theft of a young sculptor she had designs for. It was a great device for all the greedy aristocratic people to achieve their just deserts. There is also a satisfying comic touch in the way her courtesan confidante is able to j

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

La Cousine Bette = Cousin Bette, Honoré de Balzac

Story of an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family.

Cousin Bette is considered Balzac's last great work. His trademark use of realist detail combines with a panorama of characters returning from earlier novels.


Ο Μπαλζακ γλαφυρα και κυνικα ξεμπροστιαζει την γαλλικη κοινωνια δινοντας στο εργο του διαχρονικη ποιοτητα. Με καθε πιθανη μορφη και τροπο, η Αρετη και η Κακια αντιμαχονται η μια την αλλη μεχρι θανατου αποτελωντας τις δυο κυριαρχες δυναμεις που κανουν αυτον τον κοσμο να γυριζει. Χαρακτηρες πωρωμενοι,

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 th

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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