Published in 1927, Therese still stunned me in 2013. It shows the fate of a clever woman who does not seem to find men attractive but who is rather obsessed by a female friend. Therese has to marry, and her underlying disgust turns into something much more lethal. We first meet her as she leaves the court room, saved by her husband's evidence on charges of trying to poison him. She was, in fact, guilty but the family wanted to avoid scandal. I am amazed that this theme has been explored so little. And it is fascinating to see a description of what could be lesbian feelings. It was a very modern book from the Nobel Prize winner, using some techniques from the newly-developed area of film. I am not a great one for rereading books but I will reread this for its stunning themes and for the astounding descriptions of the suffocating heat and claustrophobia-inducing countryside near Bordeaux.Thérèse (Penguin Modern Classics)
What happens when a young (somewhat indulged) middleclass girl, who quite consciously enters an utterly loveless marriage, realises she made the wrong decision? Add to the mix a remote setting in rural France, a narrow community that can't conceive of divorce, a quick pregancy (for a girl who is visibly unsuited for motherhood), and, of course, a legal system that does not recognise a wife's entitlement to anything - she cannot even have her own money.
It may be the modern 1920s but Therese's options are constrictive. Worse still, her one female friend Anne has fallen head over heels in love with an intelligent young man from the city. Events seem to be drumming in to Therese just how joyless is the marriage she naively raced into. But this is not a melodramatic sob-story. Therese is, psychologically, a carefully constructed character, which is what drives the narrative. Her musings have veracity and substance. Like when Therese comes to realise how as a teenager she was conditioned by her social sphere to embark on a way of life that is unfulfilling... And the conclusion is so unexpected.
Standing in the tradition of Madame Bovary and Effi Briest, "Therese Desqueynoux" is a tightly written, well paced, enthralling novella. I couldn't put it down. -This particular volume is the Penguin to purchase because it contains all of Mauriac's fiction centered on his character Therese. This omnibus brings together the initial novella "Therese Desqueyroux", then two short stories, "Therese and the Doctor" and "Therese at the Hotel", and finishes with the final novel "End of the Night".