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A Start in Life   By: (1799-1850)

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Honoré de Balzac's A Start in Life is a richly textured and thought-provoking novel that delves deep into the complexities of human nature. Set in 19th-century France, the book follows the life of a young man named Lucien Chardon as he navigates the turbulent waters of ambition, love, and social hierarchy.

From the very beginning, Balzac's masterful storytelling draws readers into Lucien's world, immersing them in the vivid descriptions of Parisian society and its contrasting layers. The author's keen observation of human behavior shines through each character, leaving a lasting impression on the reader's mind.

Lucien, a gifted but naive poet, embarks on a quest for fame and fortune, hoping to rise above his modest upbringing. Balzac skillfully portrays the clash between Lucien's aspirations and the harsh reality of a world dictated by social class and status. Through Lucien's eyes, we witness the treacherous game of power, where the price of success often comes with sacrificing one's principles and integrity.

The themes explored in A Start in Life resonate just as strongly today as they did when the novel was first published. Balzac's commentary on love, ambition, and the corrupting influence of wealth and power is sharp and incisive. He strips away the veneer of French society, revealing both its charm and its inherent flaws.

Furthermore, the novel's strength lies in Balzac's ability to create complex and multi-dimensional characters. Lucien, as the protagonist, undergoes a profound transformation throughout the story, which makes him both relatable and intriguing. Balzac skillfully presents the moral dilemmas that confront Lucien, forcing readers to confront their own views on success and the lengths one is prepared to go to achieve it.

While A Start in Life is undeniably a slow-burn, its richly detailed narrative and exquisite prose make it a rewarding read for those who appreciate literary fiction. Balzac's eloquent language and astute observations transform seemingly mundane events into profound moments of revelation.

However, it must be noted that the book's extensive descriptions and detailed characterization, while adding depth to the narrative, may slow down the pacing for some readers. Additionally, the multitude of characters and their interactions may require focused attention to grasp the intricacies of the plot fully.

In conclusion, A Start in Life is a remarkable novel that serves as a powerful exploration of the human condition. Balzac's astute analysis of society, combined with his masterful storytelling, creates a work that is as relevant today as it was when it was first published. Although it requires some patience, the rewards are well worth the invested time, making this novel a must-read for lovers of classic literature.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Laure.

Let the brilliant mind that gave me the subject of this Scene have the honor of it.

Her brother,

De Balzac



Railroads, in a future not far distant, must force certain industries to disappear forever, and modify several others, more especially those relating to the different modes of transportation in use around Paris. Therefore the persons and things which are the elements of this Scene will soon give to it the character of an archaeological work. Our nephews ought to be enchanted to learn the social material of an epoch which they will call the "olden time." The picturesque "coucous" which stood on the Place de la Concorde, encumbering the Cours la Reine, coucous which had flourished for a century, and were still numerous in 1830, scarcely exist in 1842, unless on the occasion of some attractive suburban solemnity, like that of the Grandes Eaux of Versailles. In 1820, the various celebrated places called the "Environs of Paris" did not all possess a regular stage coach service.

Nevertheless, the Touchards, father and son, had acquired a monopoly of travel and transportation to all the populous towns within a radius of forty five miles; and their enterprise constituted a fine establishment in the rue du Faubourg Saint Denis... Continue reading book >>

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