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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vengeance personified
An astounding, even disturbing book! Since I recently read Old Goriot (Classics) and afterwards The Wild Ass's Skin: (La Peau de Chagrin) (Classics) I've become something of a Balzac-addict (not a Balzac-expert, I wouldn't dream of claiming that) and so it was with eager anticipation and high hopes that I began 'Cousin Bette'. Let me immediately state for the record that...
Published on 24 May 2010 by Didier

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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bette? Who she?
For general comments on Balzac, see my review of Eugenie Grandet: they all apply here. It's too long, too obsessed with money, and guess what? It's not really about Bette at all. Throughout most of the book she remains a peripheral character. Again, not a lot happens, and when he runs out of whatever little narrative he has, he skips a few years!! Again all the characters...
Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer


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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vengeance personified, 24 May 2010
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
An astounding, even disturbing book! Since I recently read Old Goriot (Classics) and afterwards The Wild Ass's Skin: (La Peau de Chagrin) (Classics) I've become something of a Balzac-addict (not a Balzac-expert, I wouldn't dream of claiming that) and so it was with eager anticipation and high hopes that I began 'Cousin Bette'. Let me immediately state for the record that I wasn't disappointed in the least.

Using a relatively small cast of (main) characters, Balzac succeeds in depicting a whole host of passions and emotions, most of them the kind we like to attribute to others but are hesitant to acknowledge in ourselves, such as treachery, envy, jealousy, even hatred. The story in itself is simple and straightforward: Bette is the (poor) cousin of Adeline who married into money after meeting the (then young and dashing) Baron Hulot, and has depended on her relatives' goodwill and patronage ever since. Bette has secretly fallen in love with the Polish count Steinbock, and when Adeline's daughter Hortense captures his attention and subsequently marries him, that is the last straw for Bette. From that moment on she sets out to plot and deceive with the sole goal of ruining the entire Hulot-family. Does she succeed? Well, I urge you to find out for yourselves. In doing so you'll encounter a rich array of very lifelike characters, in a plot that moves along briskly, find yourself facing some serious (at times disturbing) dilemmas (such as 'What would I have done?'), and be treated to little nuggets of timeless insight into the human mind on virtually every page.

A real treat, as worthy of our attention today as it was upon its first publication in 1847!
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An addictive, thought provoking read., 27 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Cousin Bette (Paperback)
Balzac at his best. Through his writing you experience a rainbow of undesirable emotions and immoral passions with such insight that you feel tainted by your acquaintance with the characters through the book.Devastating/Funny/Sad/Insightful - anyone familiar and endeared to Balzac will easily be seduced by this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars very enjoyable, 22 Aug. 2013
By 
Bernd Kotz (Essen, Germany) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
Balzac painted a beautiful picture of an old society but it is not so different from our society. The story is about the changing society from aristocracy to the modern world. The Baron Hulot is captured in the class of past time and his desire for women. He looses his money to get lost in the whirlpool of the upcoming class of young woman. They search for advantage and income and for love. The men are loving for spending money for them. His wife baroness Hulot is concerned of the marriage of her daughter because of the minor income they face. The marriage of her son saved them from the worst. The daughter of a rich merchant has made the fortune with the son of Hulot.
On the other side of the story is the cousin Betty. The story developed a well matched relationship with her protegee and the daughter of baroness Hulot. In the end baron Hulot stumble over the woman and his debt.
It is a witty story with the connection of the demimondaine and the women who wants to be live an easy life.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars most interesting characters with different passions, 9 Mar. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
This is an amazing book for those who are interested in daily life bothers of people with remarkable passions. The interesting figures of the novel:a husband who loves his caring and self-denying wife but cannot resist his passion towards a coldhearted beauty, a cousin who enjoys the pains of her "protecting" relatives and a number of other figures from different spheres of society with varying ambitions. You will enjoy this great book and learn more about not only human nature but also an eventful era in French history.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Those who cannot themselves achieve greatness in their art end up being a critic of those who can, 23 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
Balzac's brilliant commentary on the newly born French republic and the struggle for power underneath Napoleon as the old order was guillotined and enterprise had free reign is a marvellous expose of a society in flux. Opening with subtle alacrity the novo homo Monsieur Crevel pays a visit to his son-in-law's mother, the aristocratic Baroness Hulot d'Ervy to explain that his reason (as a tied member of their family now through her son) behind his hindrance of supplying the Baroness' daughter, Hortense, with financial surety is due to two reasons: The first due to the vast debts his son-in-law has run up which he must cover, the second, in an delightfully narrated scene of wickedly humorous selfishness, because the Baroness' husband (his libertine comrade-in-arms) has `stolen' away Monsieur Crevel's mistress, the now infamous singer, Josepha.
Monsieur Crevel insists that he must have the Baroness himself to avenge himself on her husband and, if she agrees, he will act as financial surety for her daughter Hortense. So, in true Balzac style, in the space of a few pages, we have a marvellously huge dilemma for the cuckolded Baroness for whom, within this society, social standing is everything. It is this sense of stolen love, echoing Moliere whom Balzac constantly refers to, that permeates the novel of revenge that is Cousin Bette.
What unfolds is a perfidy to subtle and over such a long period of time that its eventual terrible denouement is a tragic tale of requited love, treacherous money motivated mistresses and selflessly loving wives.
Cousin Bette has saved from suicide one Wencelas Steinbock, a Polish refugee, and has secreted him away in her tiny home for a few months financially caring for him whilst he begins to exercise his professed enormous artistic talent. Eventually she leaks her secret to her niece, Hortense who promptly falls in love with Wencelas and steals him away to marry her. In the interim, Josepha spurns Baron Hulot, who promptly turns his attentions to Madame Marneffe who lives next door to Cousin Bette. It is with Madame Marneffe that Cousin Bette finds the terrible instrument of he revenge as she inserts her into the Hulot social circle, Baron Hulot taking up with her and his lavish spending on his innocent mistress driving then entire family to penury. Madame Marneffe then comes to an agreement with Crevel to become his mistress thus stealing her from Baron Hulot and gaining his revenge on Hulot's stealing of Josepha. In the meantime the bewitching Marneffe secures herself more and more money from the slavering old men whilst carrying on with her returned Brazilian lover. Cousin Bette then gets Wencelas to obtain a loan from Madame Marneffe, knowing full well that he would fall in love with her causing Hortense's misery (and her mother's) to be absolute. By midpoint of the novel the plot is well in motion, the Hulot family is torn apart through husbands betrayals, their money is gone, wasted on a treacherous mistress who holds them all her thrall. A better siren there could not be all the time controlled by the wicked Cousin Bette.
Having reached the pinnacle of her revenge the tables begin to turn with further disgrace on Baron Hulot's part as he is founding guilty of defrauding the government in Algiers of two hundred thousand francs. His uncle and brother commit suicide and he is forced to hide in Paris (with Josepha's help). His brother's death, the Marshal, to whom Cousin Bette has secured a marriage - and hence an income - to means she begins to be revealed as a `sword of Damocles' over the Hulot family. Victorin Hulot, the son, commences to rebuild the family fortunes. Determined to restore the family fortune, Victorin sanctions the downfall of Madame Marneffe and her new husband, Crevel, through the enigmatic Madame Nourrison firstly through revealing her relationship with Crevel to Baron Montes whose rage knows no bounds, then lastly through a debilitating disease that claims the life of the Mayor and his lover. As Cousin Bette watches her evil mechinations fall apart with the death of her instrument of despair and then with Victorin restoring the family fortunes and the prodigal father's return she eventually dies, though not without some minor satisfaction at their mourning of her passing.
This is probably Balzac's most accomplished novel, a story of jealousy and envy spiralling into bitterness and a perfidious desire. Cousin Bette invents multiple reasons to hate her Hulot family and unerring hits the week points of their personalities in an attempt to ruin them and thence be seen as their saviour. The insatiably wandering eye of Baron Hulot, the vainglorious ineptitude of Wencelas, coupled with their wives who seek to retain the family dignity bring this once proud family to their knees until the son realises that by simply revealing the truths behind the lies will break apart Cousin Bette's tenuous web of despair and set them on the road to happiness again. Halfway through there is a pointed aside as Balzac gives his definition of what creates a great artist - namely hard work and fires a single shot across this reviewer by aptly pointing out that those who cannot themselves achieve greatness in their art end up being a critic of those who can. Still...this is one Balzac novel that is well worth the time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the true nature of evil, 10 April 2012
This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
In Paradise Lost, Milton has his Satan explain to the other demons that their role is not frontal attack, not by force, he says, but by guile. His idea of revenge on god is not to destry his beloved world but to spoil and twist it so that he cannot look at it without revulsion. Balzac has developed this idea superbly. His characters are not horrific or violent but just discreetly, insidiously, blandly, bad. The social mores of their society are their vehicle. Profoundly good stuff, disturbing and unforgettable.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Back to Balzac, 10 May 2014
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M. Dowling (Dublin, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Kindle Edition)
It's been over 25 years since I last read Balzac, so I was intrigued to come across this novel. The relationships are wonderfully depicted and the good and flawed natures of each of the characters come across really well. As a reader, I found myself engaging with the people - liking them, disliking them, but surprisingly forming strong opinions about them. The storyline is good and it is not difficult to pick up and want to continue to the final page. Read it.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bette? Who she?, 14 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Kindle Edition)
For general comments on Balzac, see my review of Eugenie Grandet: they all apply here. It's too long, too obsessed with money, and guess what? It's not really about Bette at all. Throughout most of the book she remains a peripheral character. Again, not a lot happens, and when he runs out of whatever little narrative he has, he skips a few years!! Again all the characters are impossible to empathise with. You couldn't give a damn whether they live or die. Whatever you think of Emma Bovary, I defy you not to be moved by her fate, and the dopey but ever-devoted Charles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 28 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
good book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cousin Bette Balzac, 21 Nov. 2013
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This review is from: Cousin Bette (Classics) (Paperback)
This book arrived promptly and is as described. This is one I've intended to read for some time but haven't had time to read it yet, .
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Cousin Bette (Classics)
Cousin Bette (Classics) by Honoré de Balzac (Paperback - 2 Dec. 2004)
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