Cousin Bette (Oxford World's Classics) Reissue Edition, Kindle Edition
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'Three Classic tales of sexual passion, perversion, and corruption have been added to the rapidly increasing World's Classics collection, whose repertoire of nineteenth-century French novels is now impressive. The price and format of these volumes make them an obvious choice for the reader approaching them in translation, the more so since each is accompanied by a helpful general introduction ... the reader is likely to get better vaqlue here than from other translation currently in print.' Timothy Unwin, University of Western Australia, MLR, 89./2, 1994
'... translated here into lucid, straightforward, easily readable contemporary English.' Forum for Modern Language Studies Vol. XXX --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
From the Back Cover
- ASIN : B005X3SAPQ
- Publisher : OUP Oxford; Reissue edition (September 10, 1998)
- Publication date : September 10, 1998
- Language : English
- File size : 4167 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Not Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 527 pages
- Lending : Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #204,924 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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The story is about an impoverished spinster who felt that she was mistreated by her wealthy relatives who were her cousins. When she saw what she considered her cousins stealing her lover, the only person she really loved, and marrying him to a daughter within their family, she decided to take revenge.
Balzac depicts the complexities of human nature in this great novel and shows his readers the fascinating world of Paris in the mid-1840s, the flirting courtesans, the cheating husbands, the martyred wives who watch their husbands cheating them, doddering aristocrats who added nothing to the social welfare, details about Cousin Bette’s scheming and maneuvers, the intrigues of others, and much more that will delight his readers.
In "Cousin Bette," the title character, Lisbeth "Bette" Fischer, is a plain, middle-aged spinster who has lived her whole life in the shadow of her pretty cousin Adeline. Adeline has married the Baron Hector Hulot D'Ervy, a high-ranking military and government official who nevertheless does not have much money and is an incurable womanizer, overtly keeping mistresses in spite of his wife's inexorable devotion to him. Their daughter, Hortense, becomes enamored with Bette's "boyfriend," a young Polish sculptor named Wenceslas Steinbock, and marries him, believing that his (rather unremarkable) art will bring in a fortune. At this point, Bette feels she has been upstaged one too many times by the Hulot family and resolves to take revenge.
One night Baron Hulot spots a beautiful young woman in Bette's apartment building and immediately plots to make her his latest mistress. This is Bette's close friend Valerie Marneffe, whose husband happens to be menially employed in Hulot's department. Bette gets the idea to use Valerie as a siren to entrap the men who have deceived her and enrage their wives. In short order, Valerie seduces Hulot, his friend and romantic rival Monsieur Crevel, and Steinbock, securing for herself large sums of money and eventually marrying Crevel, who is a wealthy retired businessman.
I've only scratched the surface of the plot, and yet to reveal any more would be beside the point of a Balzac novel because the quality of his writing is more in the interaction between the characters than in the events that advance the story. I've not yet even mentioned the excellent supporting cast, including Hulot's conscientious son Victorin; his wife Celestine, who happens to be Crevel's daughter; the Brazilian playboy Montejanos, whose fiery passion for Valerie endangers the lives of her and everyone around her; a sinister old woman who goes by a number of aliases and arranges "accidents"; and her accomplice, an elegant courtesan called Carabine. All of these characters fit together perfectly like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle and elevate the novel to exciting new levels of intrigue.
Convention would dictate that Bette's revenge be fulfilled and Hulot learn his lesson by the end of the novel, but Balzac has a more realistic outlook than to concede to a reader's expectations. He is a novelist with the dialogue-oriented sensibilities of a playwright and a knack for devising unusually complicated plots by making the most out of a minimal number of characters. If, as he states in the novel, inspiration gives genius its opportunity, then "Cousin Bette" must be the product of the highest inspiration because there is plenty of genius on display.