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Poor Relations

Honoré de Balzac

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Do you suppose that I have no soul, no beliefs, no religion? Your glee this evening has been really too barefaced; you have paraded me odiously. Really, a schoolboy would have been less of a coxcomb. And the ladies have dissected me with their side-glances and their satirical remarks. Every woman has some care for her reputation, and you have wrecked mine.

"Oh, I am yours and no mistake! And I have not an excuse left but that of being faithful to you.—Monster that you are!" she added, laughing, and allowing him to kiss her, "you knew very well what you were doing! Madame Coquet, our chief clerk's wife, came to sit down by me, and admired my lace. 'English point!' said she. 'Was it very expensive, madame?'—'I do not know. This lace was my mother's. I am not rich enough to buy the like,' said I."

Madame Marneffe, in short, had so bewitched the old beau, that he really believed she. . . Read More

Community Reviews

*Spoilers Inside* Sigh. It is a shame to give only 3 stars to a book so eloquently written, but what will linger in my mind about Cousin Bette 30 years from now will most likely be the rotten taste it has left in my mouth, not the honey-dipped words.

The first star was lost because I had to suffer t

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

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. Sev

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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