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Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan   By: (1799-1850)

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Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan by Honoré de Balzac is a captivating and intricate novel that delves into the world of French aristocracy in the 19th century. Balzac's exquisite storytelling and his deep understanding of human nature make this a worthy addition to any literature lover's collection.

The novel follows the life of the Princesse de Cadignan, a woman with a mysterious past and a determination to regain her former glory. Balzac skillfully weaves a tale of decadence, ambition, and deception, as the Princess navigates the treacherous waters of French society. With an astonishing attention to detail, the author paints a vivid picture of the social hierarchy, the political landscape, and the intricate web of power struggles.

One of the standout aspects of Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan is Balzac's ability to create complex and nuanced characters. The Princess herself is a fascinating figure, shrouded in secrecy and contradictions. From her feigned indifference to her brilliant manipulations, the reader is constantly kept on their toes, never fully knowing her true intentions.

The supporting cast is equally well-developed, each character carved with meticulous detail. Balzac explores their motives, desires, and flaws with uncanny realism, leaving the reader feeling a mix of empathy, frustration, and admiration. The dynamic between the characters adds layers of depth to the already intricate plot, keeping readers engaged and invested throughout.

Another notable element of Balzac's writing is his descriptive prowess. His vivid descriptions of opulent ballrooms, sumptuous clothing, and luxurious estates transport the reader to the glittering world of French aristocracy. Yet, amidst the glamour, Balzac also unveils the darker underbelly of this society, shedding light on its hypocrisy, decadence, and moral corruption.

Additionally, the author skillfully blends social commentary with a captivating narrative. Balzac explores themes of power, ambition, and the destructive nature of desire. He exposes the fragility of social position and the lengths some will go to maintain their status. Balzac's insights into the human psyche and his astute observations on societal dynamics provide the novel with a timeless quality, relevant even in our contemporary world.

On a technical level, the prose is elegant and immersive. Although some readers might find the lengthy descriptions and digressions laborious, those patient enough to indulge in Balzac's ornate language will be richly rewarded. Moreover, the translation captures the essence of the original work, ensuring a fluid reading experience.

Secrets of the Princesse de Cadignan is a masterfully crafted novel that takes readers on a journey through the opulence and deceit of French society. Balzac's multifaceted characters, his impeccable storytelling, and his piercing social commentary make this book a true gem within the realm of classic literature. It is a testament to the enduring power of Balzac's genius and a must-read for anyone who appreciates timeless tales of passion, ambition, and the human condition.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Theophile Gautier



After the disasters of the revolution of July, which destroyed so many aristocratic fortunes dependent on the court, Madame la Princesse de Cadignan was clever enough to attribute to political events the total ruin she had caused by her own extravagance. The prince left France with the royal family, and never returned to it, leaving the princess in Paris, protected by the fact of his absence; for their debts, which the sale of all their salable property had not been able to extinguish, could only be recovered through him. The revenues of the entailed estates had been seized. In short, the affairs of this great family were in as bad a state as those of the elder branch of the Bourbons.

This woman, so celebrated under her first name of Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, very wisely decided to live in retirement, and to make herself, if possible, forgotten. Paris was then so carried away by the whirling current of events that the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse, buried in the Princesse de Cadignan, a change of name unknown to most of the new actors brought upon the stage of society by the revolution of July, did really become a stranger in her own city... Continue reading book >>

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