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Ursula   By: (1799-1850)

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Ursula by Honoré de Balzac is a captivating novel that delves into the intricacies of love, power, and society in 19th century France. Set in the fictional town of Nemours, the story follows the lives of two cousins, Savinien de Portenduère and Ursule Mirouët.

The novel opens with a vivid depiction of a cold and calculating family dynamic, as Savinien's relatives plot against him to secure their inheritance. However, the plot takes a surprising turn when Savinien unexpectedly passes away, leaving his entire estate to Ursule, whom he barely knew. What ensues is an enthralling exploration of Ursule's transformation from a vulnerable young woman into a strong-willed and independent heiress.

Balzac expertly weaves together various themes throughout the novel, incorporating elements of romance, betrayal, and redemption. The intricate relationships among the characters are portrayed with great detail, bringing to life the conflicting emotions they experience. Ursule's journey, in particular, is a testament to the power of resilience, as she navigates through the challenges thrown at her, ultimately emerging as a formidable force in her own right.

One of the strengths of Balzac's writing lies in his ability to vividly describe the societal norms and customs of the time period. The novel serves as a fascinating window into 19th century French society, providing insights into the rigid class structure and the expectations placed upon individuals based on their social standing. Balzac meticulously crafts each scene with descriptive language, immersing the reader into the world he has created.

The character development in Ursula is exceptional, as each individual undergoes a transformative arc. From Ursule's evolution from a meek girl into a strong and self-assured woman, to the various supporting characters' growth in their understanding of love and ambition, Balzac skillfully renders these changes in a believable manner. The interactions among the characters are both realistic and emotionally charged, heightening the overall narrative.

However, some readers may find the novel's pacing to be slow, as Balzac delves into the intricacies of the legal procedures and political machinations that shape the characters' lives. While this attention to detail enhances the authenticity of the story, it may test the patience of those seeking a faster-paced narrative.

Overall, Ursula is a compelling novel that offers a profound exploration of human nature and the complexities of love, ambition, and power. Balzac's meticulous attention to detail and his exquisite character development make this novel a worthwhile read for those interested in historical fiction and social commentary. Ursula is a testament to Balzac's masterful storytelling and his ability to create a world that is both immersive and thought-provoking.

First Page:


By Honore De Balzac

Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Mademoiselle Sophie Surville,

It is a true pleasure, my dear niece, to dedicate to you this book, the subject and details of which have won the approbation, so difficult to win, of a young girl to whom the world is still unknown, and who has compromised with none of the lofty principles of a saintly education. Young girls are indeed a formidable public, for they ought not to be allowed to read books less pure than the purity of their souls; they are forbidden certain reading, just as they are carefully prevented from seeing social life as it is. Must it not therefore be a source of pride to a writer to find that he has pleased you?

God grant that your affection for me has not misled you. Who can tell? the future; which you, I hope, will see, though not, perhaps.

Your uncle, De Balzac.



Entering Nemours by the road to Paris, we cross the canal du Loing, the steep banks of which serve the double purpose of ramparts to the fields and of picturesque promenades for the inhabitants of that pretty little town. Since 1830 several houses had unfortunately been built on the farther side of the bridge. If this sort of suburb increases, the place will lose its present aspect of graceful originality... Continue reading book >>

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