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The Lily of the Valley   By: (1799-1850)

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Honoré de Balzac's novel, The Lily of the Valley, is a compelling tale that delves deep into the peculiarities of human nature and the complexities of love. Set in the quaint village of Nemours, France, the story follows the life of Félix de Vandenesse, a young aristocrat torn between duty and desire.

Balzac's prose is exquisitely detailed and paints a vivid picture of the societal landscape during the 19th century. The author's keen observations and intricate character development add depth to the narrative, meshing seamlessly with the themes of love, jealousy, and social conventions. Through Félix's personal journey, Balzac skillfully explores the inevitable clash between one's heart and the constraints of social class.

The Lily of the Valley is primarily a tale of unrequited love, with Félix finding himself unwittingly entangled in a web of affection. His infatuation with Madame de Mortsauf, a woman he meets during a visit to Clochegourde, her idyllic countryside estate, tests his devotion to his fiancée, Lady Charlotte. Balzac expertly navigates the complexities of Félix's emotional turmoil, portraying his internal battles with honesty and sensitivity.

As the story progresses, we witness the tragedy of unfulfilled love taking its toll on the characters' lives. Balzac exposes the fragile and fleeting nature of happiness, highlighting the consequences of a society governed by appearances and expectations. The Lily of the Valley challenges societal norms, revealing the profound impact that suppressed emotions can have on individuals and their relationships.

One of Balzac's greatest achievements in this novel is his ability to convey the subtleties of human emotions. His exploration of Félix's innermost thoughts and desires is both captivating and thought-provoking. Balzac's insightful observations of human behavior make The Lily of the Valley not only a fascinating story but also an insightful psychological study of love and its consequences.

While some may find the pacing slow at times, Balzac's meticulous attention to detail ensures the reader is fully immersed in the narrative. The painstakingly crafted descriptions of Nemours and Clochegourde make them feel like tangible places that one could step into, further enhancing the reading experience.

In conclusion, The Lily of the Valley is a beautifully crafted novel that delves into the complexities of love, social expectations, and the human psyche. Balzac's rich prose and memorable characters make this a must-read for lovers of classic literature. This timeless masterpiece serves as a captivating reflection on the human condition, reminding us that love is not always easily attainable, and the consequences of its pursuit can be profound.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Monsieur J. B. Nacquart, Member of the Royal Academy of Medicine.

Dear Doctor Here is one of the most carefully hewn stones in the second course of the foundation of a literary edifice which I have slowly and laboriously constructed. I wish to inscribe your name upon it, as much to thank the man whose science once saved me as to honor the friend of my daily life.

De Balzac.



Felix de Vandenesse to Madame la Comtesse Natalie de Manerville:

I yield to your wishes. It is the privilege of the women whom we love more than they love us to make the men who love them ignore the ordinary rules of common sense. To smooth the frown upon their brow, to soften the pout upon their lips, what obstacles we miraculously overcome! We shed our blood, we risk our future!

You exact the history of my past life; here it is. But remember this, Natalie; in obeying you I crush under foot a reluctance hitherto unconquerable. Why are you jealous of the sudden reveries which overtake me in the midst of our happiness? Why show the pretty anger of a petted woman when silence grasps me? Could you not play upon the contradictions of my character without inquiring into the causes of them? Are there secrets in your heart which seek absolution through a knowledge of mine? Ah! Natalie, you have guessed mine; and it is better you should know the whole truth... Continue reading book >>

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