Kim's Reviews > Bel-Ami

Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant
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Jul 26, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: audiobook, french-language
Read from July 26 to August 30, 2011

For a novel published in 1885 and set in the Paris of that period, this novel has a remarkably modern feel. It's about sleazy journalism, corrupt politicians, sex, money and power. And through it all is the Bel-Ami of the title - Georges Duroy, who uses his liaisons with rich and / or powerful women to achieve the wealth and social position he craves. Bel-Ami is the nickname given to him by the daughter of a mistress. It means "handsome (or beautiful) friend", but the nickname, like almost everything else about Georges, is deceptive. As handsome as he is, there's nothing in the least bit friendly about Georges.

I love so much about this book. I love the straightforward, accessible language, the believable dialogue and the descriptions of Paris life in 1885. I love the use of humour, such as in the duelling scene. I love the poignancy of some of the scenes: for example (view spoiler).

However, the character of Georges Duroy is the novel's greatest achievement. He is the centre around whom everyting turns and he is a fascinating creation. De Maupassant initially evokes sympathy for Georges. He is poor, and while ambitious, he suffers humiliation because of his poverty. But any sympathy is stripped away as the narrative progresses. Georges is a person who can never be content with what he has. Each gain, each achievement only leads to more envy and increased greed. (view spoiler)As a character, Georges is both horrifying and compelling.

This novel is a wonderful illustration of how a total lack of virtue can bring great rewards. There is no doubt that this remains as true today as it was in Paris in 1885.
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Reading Progress


Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Diana S (new) - added it

Diana S Do you plan on seeing the movie when it comes out in the movie theaters?


message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Diana, when I started on it, I didn't realise that a film was coming. I will probably see it, but I'm worried about being disappointed. I find that with really good books, the film doesn't often measure up!


message 3: by Sabrina (new) - added it

Sabrina I just added it to my list. And like you, I tend to avoid books made into movies. They never live up to the book.


message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Sabrina wrote: "I just added it to my list. And like you, I tend to avoid books made into movies. They never live up to the book."

I hope you like it, Sabrina. I listened to a French language audiobook version. However, I also have a kindle version and the translation looks okay. Don't get the copy which is on Project Gutenberg, though. It appears to be abridged.

With films, I'm often really glad that I've seen the film version before reading the book. I'm so much less likely to be disappointed. For example, I saw the film version of Atonement without having read the book. I quite liked the film, but a friend of mine wouldn't go to see it because she loved the book so much.


message 5: by G (new) - rated it 4 stars

G RdM Great review!!


message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Gabriela wrote: "Great review!!"

Thanks, Gabriela!


message 7: by Zoe (new) - rated it 4 stars

Zoe Only just started Bel-Ami, and loved and totally agreed with this review... til around the end of the second paragraph when I had to stop reading in case any more was spoilt for me! Haha, I'll come back here when I've read it all ;-)


message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Zoe wrote: "Only just started Bel-Ami, and loved and totally agreed with this review... til around the end of the second paragraph when I had to stop reading in case any more was spoilt for me! Haha, I'll come..."

So sorry, Zoe. I've put in a couple of spoiler tags. Don't know why I didn't do that originally, 'cos I hate spoiler-y reviews! I hope you continue to enjoy the novel.:D


Hugo Emanuel was going to write a review about this novel. However, when stumbling upon your review I realized it would be redundant to do so since your review perfectly mirrors my thoughts regarding the novel. I'll "like it" instead.


message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Hugo wrote: "was going to write a review about this novel. However, when stumbling upon your review I realized it would be redundant to do so since your review perfectly mirrors my thoughts regarding the novel...."

Thank you, Hugo. It's very kind of you to say so.


Xavier Guillaume Agree absolutely! I just read the first chapter and it feels remarkably modern. even though a dinner only costs one franc. the sentimentality behind the story feels so fresh. love it!


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Xavier wrote: "Agree absolutely! I just read the first chapter and it feels remarkably modern. even though a dinner only costs one franc. the sentimentality behind the story feels so fresh. love it!"

Thanks for commenting, Xavier. Dinner costing only one franc is a giveaway!


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