Cousin Bette (1846) is considered to be Balzac's last great novel, and a key work in his Human Comedy. Set in the Paris of the 1830s and 1840s, it is a complex tale of the devastating effect of violent jealousy and sexual passion.
Against a meticulously detailed backdrop of a post-Napoleonic France struggling with massive industrial and economic change, Balzac's characters span many classes of society, from impoverished workers and wealthy courtesans to successful businessmen and official dignitaries.
The tragic outcome of the novel is relieved by occasional flashes of ironic comedy and the emergence of a younger generation which has come to terms with the new political and econimic climate.
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'Appended to the text is a summary of its financial plots, the complications of which appear even more marvellous when extrapolated in this way. This is an introduction which is consistently enthusiastic about the complexity of a novel which, 'in its rich ambiguity, allows every reader to explore his or how own imagination of what life is really like'.'
Robert Lethbridge, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, French Studies, Vol. 47, Part 3
'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