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The Princess of Cleves (La Princesse de Clèves) and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
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The Princesse de Cleves Paperback – Oct 6 1992

6 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (Oct. 6 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140445870
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140445879
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.2 x 19.7 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 141 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #504,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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 the Independent on Sunday and as television critic for the Times Literary Supplement. He has published on Vigny and Coteau and written three books on European cinema.

Inside This Book

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At no time in France were splendour and refinement so brilliantly displayed as in the last years of the reign of Henri II.1 Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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By m-starr on July 26 2002
Format: Paperback
I read this book because John Updike said it was one of the world's greatest novels of romance -- but I should have known from his other choices (Madame Bovary and The Scarlett Letter, among others) that he likes his romance bleak! The Princess of Cleves is certainly of considerable scholarly interest, being as it is a very early novel, and delving interestingly into the predicament of a woman trying to behave morally despite the frivolity, intrigue and pleasure-seeking of the 17th century French court. But the story is difficult and sad: young woman marries dutifully, then falls in love with a handsome duke, he feels similarly and pursues her passionately, but she struggles against her feelings, which wrecks havoc on everyone. The predicament is closely linked to the context and doesn't feel timeless or grand in theme; rather, the triviality of it stokes up thoughts of what caused the French revolution. Interested readers may prefer the Norton critical edition, which offers a number of essays as well as the text.
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By A Customer on July 12 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
"La Princesse de Cleves" is among the most scrupulously accurate historical fictions in literature. It is also arguably the first historical novel ever written and one of the earliest novels in any language.
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.
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Format: Paperback
This is an interesting book. A very fast read at just 176 pages, The Princesse de Cleves was written as a sort of snapshot of the behavior that was common in royal courts throughout Europe. Full of intrigue, love, treachery and death, this book reads exactly like a soap opera. The introduction says that it first appeared in 1678 and was one of the first romance books written in French. I decided to read it due to some courses in history that I've taken that concern this time period.
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.
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