History: This book was published in 1883.
Plot: In the spring of 1819, Jeanne Le Perthuis des Vauds and her parents go to live in an old chateau, The Poplars, on the Normandy coast. Baron Simon-Jacques Le Perthuis des Vauds was left a large inheritance, but he so reduces it by his freehandedness that he is eventually forced to reconcile himself for the remainder of his days to a simple country life.
Jeanne, who spent the preceding five years in a convent, looks forward happily to her new life and dreams of the day when she will find the man who loves her.
She falls in love quickly and gets married thereafter thinking all the joy will follow as is expected. Slowly the fog lifts, she becomes aware of the person her husband is
Her husband gradually takes over the estate and all its doings and her parents placid acceptance of his misdoings turn her into a passive and apathetic being. She stops caring about the open dalliances of her husband and turns to her child and religion for emotional support.The church, in its rigidity demands a too steep price from her and the child ,in his immature ways ultimately betrays her too.
She turns totally inward and looks upon life as something which has treated her un-fair..
The journey of her life from an optimistic wide-eyed girl to a fatalistic and wounded grandmother is so vivid that you have a feeling of having lived a lifetime in the span of the book...and a sad life that is..with no hope of redemption or any hint of happy ending..what is the point of that story it seems..
Review: It is the story of Jeanne, an exuberant and imaginative girl of noble birth ,who has all the dreams and aspiration of youth - finding love and living the dream life.
She is the only child of her parents and never seen any of her wishes thwarted, cosseted and protected that she is from all the harsh realities of life.
Guy De Maupassant seems to be the greatest French short story writer of 19th century, influenced by Gustav Flaubert .
This novel is written in the naturalist style i.e portraying things as they are which might be harsh and stark sometimes i.e poverty, indifference, sexuality, prostitution etc .
Maupassant's novel is set in Normandy, in a manor house with the surrounding countryside. It is a political and social microclimate. Paris is a very long way away, and the larger events of France, as it emerges from the turmoil of the Revolution and the Napoleonic period are not related. The novel is primarily a character study of Jeanne, the woman born of the manor, and a coterie of friends and relatives, who disappoint her, and ultimately lead her to ruin.
Philandering, political or otherwise, is not a monopoly of the United States, in the early 21st Century. It was the accepted norm of the French countryside, and even the prudent priests looked the other way. Jeanne is truly disillusioned when she realizes that even her own mother was guilty of it. Religious fanaticism? Maupassant draws a telling portrait of a priest who believes he truly is God's personal agent on earth, and manages to manipulate particularly the women in a most vindictive manner. One of the priest's classic lines, as relevant today as when it was written: "In order to be powerful and respected, we must act together. If the church and the mansion go hand in hand, the cottage will fear us and obey." A hierarchical society? As the gap between rich and poor continues to increase in the United States, accompanied by the propaganda that this is the natural course of "free markets," it's important to reflect on a society that still had serious economic disparities even after its Revolution.
Opening Line: “Jeanne, having finished her packing, went to the window, but it had not stopped raining.“
Closing Line: “After all, life is never so jolly or so miserable as people seem to think.”
Quotes: “In her heart she felt resentful towards Julien for not understanding as much, for lacking this finer sense of modesty, this instinctive delicacy of feeling; and she felt as though there was a veil between them, a barrier, and realized for the first time that two people are never completely one in their heart of hearts, in their deepest thoughts, that they walk side by side, entwined sometimes but never completely united, and that in our moral being we each of us remain forever alone throughout our lives.”
“Habit spread over her life like a layer of resignation like the chalky deposit left on the ground by certain kinds of of water.”