Cousin Bette is not one of Balzac's best, but it is very good. The author says it is a companion piece to Cousin Pons, which is a better novel in my view. But both books pale in comparison to Lost Illusions, which I regard as Balzac's best novel -- just ahead of Peré Goriot. The man can truly write and his view of the human comedy is always instructive. He sees the greed and self-absorption that lies at the heart of modern society and is brutally honest. Balzac characterizes himself as a historian rather than a "writer" in the loose sense. He is that. His novels cut to the heart and tear away pretense. They are, indeed, strong stuff. This edition of the novel is not of the best. It is large and hard to hold! I would buy the penguin edition next time -- which is also a better translation.