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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Friday, 2 December 2016

"Eugenie Grandet" by Honore de Balzac

Eugenie's dad, old Grandet, is the richest man in town. Starting as a cooper he buys vineyards and land and soon moves into investing and money-lending. Despite his great wealth he always tells people he is poor and he runs his household on the stingiest possible lines.

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

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