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The Princesse de Cleves Paperback – Oct 6 1992
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About the Author
Marie-Madeleine Pioche de la Vergne was born in Paris in 1634. in 1656 she married the Comte de Lafayette, had two sons, and lived on his country estate. She then returned to Paris, and the couple remained largely separate from then on. She started a literary salon with her close friends Madame de Sevigne and the Duc de la Rochefoucauld. She also mixed in court circles and wrote a biography of her friend Henriette, wife of the Duc d'Orleans, after her death. She is mostly remembered for her novels. She died in 1693.
Robin Buss is a writer and translator who works for theIndependent on Sunday and as television critic for The Times Educational Supplement. He studied at the University of Paris, where he took a degree and a doctorate in French literature. He is part-author of the article 'French Literature' in Encyclopaedia Britannica and has published critical studies of works by Vigny and Cocteau, and three books on European cinema, The French Through Their Films (1988), Italian Films (1989) and French Film Noir (1994). He has also translated a number of volumes for Penguin Classics.
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Top Customer Reviews
But is a classic in Mark Twain's sense of the word, the sort of book everyone wants to have read but nobody actually wants to read?
I agree with another reviewer that this isn't beach blanket fare. Readers of early English literature will find it more palatable than Samuel Richardson's "Pamela" and better plotted than anything by Defoe. Although Mme. de Lafayette is not the first important female writer in French - Christine de Pizan comes to mind - this highly original work outdoes Aphra Behn, Fanny Burney, or any other English woman before Jane Austen.
If those comparisons bring a sparkle to your eye then prepare for a treat. The central figure is a sixteen-year-old girl fresh from a sheltered childhood in the countryside when her mother decides to deal for a prestigious son-in-law. Except for the fictional protagonist every figure in this late Renaissance setting is historically accurate. The jousts, the love affairs, the betrayals, and the shocking death of one pivotal figure all happened. De Lafayette presents the French royal court at its most glamorous, then peels away the facade to reveal ambitions that corrupt or destroy everyone who remains in their spell.
Women's fictions from this era were expected to be love stories. This one succeeds at that well enough to woo modern readers while it levels a scathing attack on the French aristocracy in the tradition of Moliere.
The main character is a woman of extraordinary beauty who quickly captures the hearts of men at the court of Henri II of France. She marries Monsieur de Cleves, even though she doesn't really love him. The marriage is more for position than emotion, although it's hard not to sympathize with her husband, as he treats her well and always tries to win her heart. His wife quickly becomes enraptured with the Duc de Nemours, a court dandy who has the reputation of loving 'em and leaving 'em. He falls in love with her, and the rest of the book is spent explaining their machinations as the Duc tries to get close to her, and Mme. de Cleves tries to keep him at arms length and honor her marriage to her husband. Everything comes to a head in the end, which is bleak and not at all happy as one would expect.
This book is fairly one-dimensional in shape. There is little character development beyond love affairs, and almost no description of scenery. This is an intensely character driven book, without the character, and very complex once the political intrigues enter the picture. All royal courts had intrigue, and France was probably one of the worst. When love affairs bloom, the webs become even more convoluted. It really is like a soap opera, although I couldn't help but notice that a deep cynicism runs throughout the book.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Cette oeuvre, écrite vers la fin du 17e siècle, projette les façons de faire de la cour de Louis XIV un siècle et demi plus tôt, à la toute fin du... Read morePublished on Nov. 25 2012 by Pierre Gauthier
The tale of a fictional woman living at the French Court during the 17th century reign of Henry II. It is a very slow read at first, but then the pace picks up. Read morePublished on April 15 2004 by Essay
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