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The Deserted Woman   By: (1799-1850)

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In Honoré de Balzac's novel The Deserted Woman, readers are transported to the mesmerizing world of mid-19th century Paris, where they are immersed in a tale of love, betrayal, and societal conventions. Balzac's captivating storytelling and vivid descriptions allow the reader to experience the emotional turmoil of the novel's protagonist, a woman named Augustine Guillaume, whose life takes an unexpected turn.

Set against the backdrop of a rigid and unforgiving society, Augustine finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage with a wealthy but cold-hearted husband. As the story unfolds, we witness her gradual transformation from a meek and obedient wife to a woman searching for her own identity and happiness. Balzac skillfully portrays Augustine's inner turmoil, her conflicting desires, and her struggle to break free from the suffocating constraints of her social status.

One of Balzac's most remarkable achievements in this novel is his ability to convey the suppressed desires and passions of his characters. Through his astute observations and psychological insights, he reveals the complex nature of human emotions. Augustine's yearning for true love and her internal battles with societal expectations resonate with readers, fostering a sense of empathy and connection.

While the novel primarily revolves around Augustine's journey, Balzac expertly weaves a web of intricate relationships and subplots. The supporting cast, including Augustine's husband, her lover, and various acquaintances, bring depth and complexity to the narrative. The interactions between these characters explore themes of social class, honor, and the consequences of one's actions, offering a comprehensive portrayal of the society they inhabit.

Balzac's writing style is both lyrical and evocative, painting a vivid picture of the bustling streets of Paris, the luxurious ballrooms, and the opulent salons. His descriptions transport readers back in time, effectively conveying the atmosphere and nuances of mid-19th century French society. Moreover, his intricate attention to detail enhances the authenticity of the narrative and adds depth to the characters' motivations and actions.

Balzac's The Deserted Woman is a compelling exploration of the human condition and the limitations and expectations imposed by society. It delves into the complexities of love, marriage, and individual fulfillment in a time when conformity reigned supreme. Through Augustine's journey, readers are compelled to examine their own desires, choices, and the sacrifices demanded by societal norms.

In conclusion, The Deserted Woman is an enthralling tale that showcases Balzac's mastery of storytelling. With its richly developed characters, evocative descriptions, and profound exploration of societal pressures, it is a novel that lingers in the reader's mind long after the final page is turned. Balzac's profound understanding of human nature shines through, making this book an enduring classic in the canon of French literature.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Ellen Marriage


To Her Grace the Duchesse d'Abrantes, from her devoted servant, Honore de Balzac. PARIS, August 1835.


In the early spring of 1822, the Paris doctors sent to Lower Normandy a young man just recovering from an inflammatory complaint, brought on by overstudy, or perhaps by excess of some other kind. His convalescence demanded complete rest, a light diet, bracing air, and freedom from excitement of every kind, and the fat lands of Bessin seemed to offer all these conditions of recovery. To Bayeux, a picturesque place about six miles from the sea, the patient therefore betook himself, and was received with the cordiality characteristic of relatives who lead very retired lives, and regard a new arrival as a godsend.

All little towns are alike, save for a few local customs. When M. le Baron Gaston de Nueil, the young Parisian in question, had spent two or three evenings in his cousin's house, or with the friends who made up Mme. de Sainte Severe's circle, he very soon had made the acquaintance of the persons whom this exclusive society considered to be "the whole town... Continue reading book >>

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