Two families in town are competing to marry a son off to just-come-of-age Eugenie because of the fortune she will inherit.
So when Charles arrives, handsome if foppish son of old Grandet's brother, a wealthy banker in Paris, all plans are thrown into disarray. Charles cannot conceive of the poverty stricken life his relations lead, that the cook has to plead with the master for extra bread to feed him, for sugar for his coffee, for butter and for eggs for breakfast. And the letter that comes to Grandet tells of his brother's bankruptcy and suicide.
Grandet schemes to get rid of Charles and to get round the shame of a Grandet going bankrupt using his usual sharp practices. But Eugenie has fallen in love with Charles ...
Balzac is a sort of French Dickens who, despite living between 1799 and 1850, wrote a vast number of books in a Dickensian style, mixing brilliantly realistic descriptions with over-sentimentalised but multi-layered and quite complex characterisations; essentially plot-driven.
- "suitability to its purpose is necessary to all things."
- "God will know his angels by the tones of their voices and the sadness hidden in their hearts."
- "in the spirit of a conscientious writer reading his work through, criticizing it and saying hard things about it to himself"
- "Don't we all live on the dead? Where else do legacies come from?"
- "he has taken all they had and left them only their eyes to cry with."
- "he rubbed his hands together briskly enough to have rubbed the skin off, if his epidermis had not resembled Russian leather in everything but its scent of larch bark and incense."
- "Hunger brings to wolf from the wood"
- "minds, like certain animals, lose their fertility when taken from their native clime."
- "There had been a grain of gold in his heart ... but Parisian society had drawn it out to wire and beaten it to gilding, placed all on the surface where it must soon rub off."
- "Even the harshest judge ... well hesitate to believe that a wizened heart, a corrupt and cold-blooded nature, can dwell beneath a smooth forehead and eyes that still fill readily with tears."
- "you have eyes like a lost soul! Don't go looking at people that way."
- "don't we all get harder as we get older?"
An interesting story which ends unexpectedly. December 2016, 228 pages