Cousin Bette (1846) is a novel by French author Honore de Balzac. Part of Balzac’s La Comedie humaine sequence, the novel is recognized as being the author’s last fully-realized work, and features several characters who appear elsewhere throughout his legendary series. It has inspired several film and television adaptations, as well as earned comparisons to Shakespeare’s Othello and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The novel focuses on the life and exploits of Bette Fischer, a 42-year-old woman whose bitterness at remaining unmarried-despite several proposals by men she deemed unworthy-drives her to ruin the reputations and lives of her extended family. After rescuing the young sculptor Wenceslas Steinbock from suicide, Bette develops a complex affection for the man. When he falls in love with Hortense, the daughter of Bette’s cousin Adeline, she hatches a plan to gain revenge for this perceived personal slight. She recruits the young and beautiful Valerie Marneffe-an unhappily married woman-to seduce Adeline’s husband, Baron Hector Hulot, whose uncontrolled desires and extensive vanity both test his family’s loyalty and stretch their finances to the furthest possible limit. Cousin Bette is an intense psychological drama and character study that burns with the fire of Balzac’s critique of French society. While exposing the depths of human immorality-particularly where money is made the center of personal relationships-Balzac manages to remind us that what makes us human is not what drives us apart, but the lengths to which we will go to cultivate love despite our basest impulses. To read Cousin Bette is to observe the hopes, flaws, and desires of the people of nineteenth century France, but to ultimately judge ourselves. This final masterpiece of Honore de Balzac is a testament to the skill and dedication of one of history’s finest literary minds. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Honore de Balzac’s Cousin Bette is a classic of French literature reimagined for modern readers. show more
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