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Cousin Bette (La Comédie Humaine #56)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  6,997 Ratings  ·  386 Reviews
Cousin Bette was Balzac's last great novel, and in it he explores power, lust, deception, and revenge. The characters are complex and vividly drawn. Cousin Bette is a woman of breath-taking malice. She plans and executes a diabolic plot of revenge against her own family for slights more imagined than real, destroying herself in the process.
Paperback, 364 pages
Published March 18th 2008 by SMK Books (first published 1846)
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Yana Stajno I'm reading Cousin Bette. It's a fascinating study of spite. It's also a study of the layers of societal structures in the post-Napoleonic era. I…moreI'm reading Cousin Bette. It's a fascinating study of spite. It's also a study of the layers of societal structures in the post-Napoleonic era. I would recommend it as a foray into Balzac. (less)
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Petra X
Jul 06, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, reviewed

This is a soap opera masquerading as a classic. It has all the right ingredients.

* A husband, a baron, who has spent all the family money on other women.

* A wife who justifies acting like a doormat by saying it is religious feminine submission.

* An in-law who threatens to put the kybosh on any potential "good match" marriage for their dowry-less but pretty (and rather boring) daughter Hortense if religious doormat doesn't sleep with him.

* Cousin Bette, the protagonist of the story, who is the
...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
La cousine Bette = Cousin Bette, Honoré de Balzac
Story of an unmarried middle-aged woman who plots the destruction of her extended family.
عنوان: دختر عمو بت - در دو جلد؛ نویسنده: آنوره (اونوره) دو بالزاک؛ مترجم: م.ا. به آذین (محمود اعتمادزاده)؛ تهران، آسیا، 1347؛ در 486 ص؛ چاپ سوم 1368؛ شابک: 9649067949؛ چاپ دیگر: تهران، نیلوفر، 1390، شابک: 9789644484988؛ در 551 ص؛ جلد نخست از ص 1 تا ص 240 ؛ جلد دوم از ص 243 تا ص 486 ؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان فرانسوی قرن 19 م
بسیاری «دختر عمو بت» را در شمار شا
...more
J.L.   Sutton
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Compelling (and unsavory) characters drew me into Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette (1846). The main plot centers on Cousin Bette's revenge on her family; however, all the stories which make up the novel are imbued by obsessions which drive the narrative to its dark end. Much of how I described Balzac's earlier novel, Pere Goriot, holds true for Cousin Bette; Balzac's impressively/exhaustively detailed style is at work here. The layers of detail allow readers to immerse themselves in early 19th ce ...more
Perry
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: libri-classici
SWEET LAND OF LIBERTINES


If you fancy yourself a moralist, you may wanna skip this one. As the undoubted precursor to/playbook for modern-day soap operas, Cousin Bette involves:
marital cruelty, sexual blackmail, spite-filled revenge, prostitution, unconscionable adultery, women with irresistible sexual allure to men, men and women having a number of different sexual partners (in a day), theft, poisons, passion-filled murder, and just about every other sin and demoralizing character defect one
...more
Jonfaith
Dec 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Despite some narrative leaps and a reversal of fortune for several of the characters, I truly loved this novel. It was a perfect, snowy weekend for such. The pacing, except for the end, was sublime and supported with equal measures of vitriol and detail.

There is much to say about a family in decline, if not peril. I rank Cousin Bette with Buddenbrooks and The Sound and the Fury.
Reckoner
Ο Μπαλζακ γλαφυρα και κυνικα ξεμπροστιαζει την γαλλικη κοινωνια δινοντας στο εργο του διαχρονικη ποιοτητα. Με καθε πιθανη μορφη και τροπο, η Αρετη και η Κακια αντιμαχονται η μια την αλλη μεχρι θανατου αποτελωντας τις δυο κυριαρχες δυναμεις που κανουν αυτον τον κοσμο να γυριζει. Χαρακτηρες πωρωμενοι, φιληδονοι, αγαθοι, εκδικητικοι, μιζεροι, μικροπρεπεις, γοητευτικοι, περηφανοι, ανιεροι, ποταποι και ταπεινοι κατακλυζουν τις σελιδες αυτου του οικογενειακου δραματος που παιρνει διαστασεις τραγωδιας ...more
Chrissie
I am no literary critic. I will merely try and express what I experienced while reading this book.

I am glad I read it, but I admire the author's opus more than I enjoyed it. Honestly, it was often a struggle.

It has a very slow start. The book's narrator, after a third of the way through, states that only now will the story begin. All that before had just been an introduction to the characters! That "introduction" doesn't read as a normal introduction; you are thrown into events that you scarce
...more
Sara
Lisbeth Fischer is consumed with hatred for her cousin, Adeline Hulot. Cousin Adeline has married a Baron and come up in the world, and Bette is the poor spinster relation, who has to work for part of her living and depends on the charity of the family for the remainder. Cousin Adeline’s husband, the Baron Hulot, is a despicable womanizer who ruins himself for “love”, uh make that lust. Nothing to envy in Adeline’s life at all...I’d have rather had the independence of Lisbeth, but then Lisbeth n ...more
Jim
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the third time I have read this late masterpiece of Balzac's -- and it got better with each reading. There have been other novels (mostly European) about men who have ruined themselves for illicit love of other women, but Balzac's Baron Hector Hulot goes further than any of them. At the beginning of Cousin Bette, he is at his apogee: married to a loving woman, with two loving adult children -- and an incredible itch for what willing young women have to offer. I will not say what happens ...more
Anascape Taylor
*Spoilers Inside* Sigh. It is a shame to give only 3 stars to a book so eloquently written, but what will linger in my mind about Cousin Bette 30 years from now will most likely be the rotten taste it has left in my mouth, not the honey-dipped words.

The first star was lost because I had to suffer through long sections of Balzac's rambling, misguided moralizing. His sermons seem to cover all topics, from the high-handed judgment of a variety of races to the merits of "good breeding." I like an a
...more
Manny
Plain, spinsterish Lisbeth has become insanely jealous of her beautiful cousin Adeline, and decides that she will finally get even with her. She knows that Adeline's husband is unable to resist feminine charm, so she forms an alliance with the gorgeous and completely amoral Madame Marneffe. I love the following quote; a slightly adapted form even found its way into the dreadful movie version.
« Madame Marneffe était la hache, et Lisbeth était la main qui la manie, et la main démolissait à coup pr
...more
Magrat Ajostiernos
Me ha costado lo mío terminar esta novela (yo que creía superado mi trauma con los franceses xDD) pero en fin, una vez terminada y reposada puedo decir que 'La prima Bette' es una novela larga, densa, demasiado minuciosa en los detalles y aún así, no ha dejado de resultarme interesante y curiosa en ningún momento, y desde luego me alegro de haber llegado hasta el final. Sus últimas 150 páginas me han encantado y la descripción de esos personajes tan odiosos me ha llegado al alma.
Y además, qué q
...more
Caroline
In the dedication to Cousin Bette, Balzac describes his glowing admiration of Don Michele Angelo Cajetani, Prince of Teano, for the impromptu exegesis of Dante’s Divine Comedy that he gave one evening in Balzac’s company. Thus, presumably, the umbrella title of La Comedie Humaine for his many of his novels. Balzac writes:

The two sketches I dedicate to you [The Poor Relations: Cousin Pons and Cousin Bette are the two eternal aspects of one and the same fact. Homo duplex, said the great Buffon: wh
...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
They are scoundrels! The whole lot of them! Well, ok, there are one or two virtuous people among them, but they are boring. Which is what makes the rest of them scoundrels. I loved this book. I think I was supposed to be scandalized, but I live now, not then.

It is a time of opulence and excess. Money and Sex. Depending on gender, they use one to get the other. To what lengths they will go in pursuit of money and sex! And then there is Cousin Bette who has neither. Because she has neither, she i
...more
John
May 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had decided to listen to the book itself after recently seeing the 1971 video starring Margaret Tyzack and (a young) Helen Mirren; the novel moves at a slower pace, although the basic elements are the same. A good subtitle would be: "in which (almost) everyone gets what they deserve."

I dislike reviews that rehash plots, but in this case I'm going to have to do that myself to comment on what to expect for folks considering tackling this classic. Poor plain Bette snaps when her niece Hortense, d
...more
Capsguy
Jun 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french
Stupid men falling for vicious and manipulative women. You don't see that every day!
Carol Rodríguez
Nov 20, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: did-not-finish
Después de haber llegado a poco más de la mitad, he decidido abandonar este libro (lo marco como leído porque GoodReads no tiene la opción de "abandonado").

Empezó bien, hasta fluido y entretenido, pero poco a poco se convirtió en un folletín repetitivo en el que todos los personajes me parecían horribles, viles y machistas (en este último punto incluyo también a las mujeres y a la voz del narrador). Ante la falta de empatía y la trama aburrida, poco creíble, extensa de más y que no me dice nada
...more
Adam Calhoun
Nov 05, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like seemingly every French novel of the period, Cousin Bette's first hundred pages are boring tidbits of backstory that could have been condense to only a few pages. Fortunately, the remainder of the book makes up for that fact. Cousin Bette is the story of a bitter family member who decides to bring down the relatives that she sees as having done her wrong. Since she takes slights easily, this is quite a few of them.

But it's really an exploration of changing social mores, as nouveau riche gain
...more
Helga
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, classics

This book is about extreme vice versus extreme virtue. There is no middle! The characters are either very bad or very good. How can a serial adulterer who was the cause of at least 3 people's death due to his actions called a victim? How can all the fault be with the woman who "seduced" the man??
This book is mainly about cousin Bette's jealousy of her relatives and her hatred and decision to ruin them; but the problem is that the relatives ruin themselves by their own idiotic or selfish actions.
...more
Margaret
This tale of family passions and intrigue, set in Paris in the 1830s and 1840s, was the first Balzac I've read, and I liked it quite a lot. I found that I enjoyed his sardonic cynicism greatly, even though I disagree with many of his opinions (not myself being quite so cynical as he was, perhaps). To give you a flavor of his writing, here's one of the chapter titles, which are often wry: "Chapter 24. In which chance, which often brings about true romances, makes things go so well that they canno ...more
Kate
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thrilling and terrifying. Can women really be this heartless and greedy? And can men really be so criminally stupid? Anyone who says that drawing room novels are dry and boring should read this one, where most of the murderous, high-stakes, life-ruining action does indeed take place in someone's living room. Balzac's Paris is a ruthless jungle, and I'm fascinated. I'm totally going to read more.

The Cousin Bette of the title is an overlooked and resentful poor relation to the novel's central fam
...more
Scott
Jun 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a cynical, bitter, overwrought and completely delicious condemnation of Parisian society in the 1830s with a fuck-you-bitch ending to anyone (like me) indulging in the excesses of revenge brought on by the title character. "See all these dicks? You're a dick too! Guess who wins! None of your favorites!" That last bit was perhaps unintended on Balzac's part because I don't think Cousin Bette was meant to be as sympathetic as I read her. Then again maybe she was. This novel is wicked smart ...more
Louise
Dec 30, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Envy. Raging envy. The story of a woman (Bette) who has lived bitterly in the shadow of her successful, beautiful cousin, Adeline. Till the opening of the story, she has been content to be the fifth wheel in the Hulot family, accepting their kindness grudgingly. However, when her niece Hortense sets her sights on the man that Bette believes to be her own, she becomes a formidable foe, obsessed with bringing down the entire Hulot family.
Interesting, a bit predictable, evil is evil and good is ang
...more
Mona
Nov 27, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
A veces 1 a veces 2.
"La prima Bette" ha sido una lectura peculiar. Fue una lectura conjunta pero con un gran índice de abandono y se me metió el miedo en el cuerpo. Como no podía ser de otro modo a mi también me asaltaron las dudas y estuve tentada de abandonarlo más de una vez (eso es siempre mala señal).
El estilo de Balzac no va conmigo. Si bien es un clásico (y me suelen gustar) me parece que se va por las ramas demasiado y que le sobran capítulos enteros.
La historia es inverosímil hasta d
...more
Doroti
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Единственото, което отличава епохата на Балзак от нашата, в крайна сметка се оказват кринолините и липсата на мобилни телефони. Човешките взаимоотношения, интриги, лъжи, заеми, драми - до известна степен са същите. И накрая: what goes around comes around... Но дали?
"Животът е невъзможен без забравяне."
Corey
Dec 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a great story! What a great ending! What a great writer! This was one of the best End of the Year Big Classics I've read.
תניה
Wow. The boring title of the eponymous main character belies the violence within her. Cracking stuff!
Geoffrey
Jun 02, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Balzac can be so poisonous. In the best way possible.
Gláucia Renata
Feb 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Publicado em 1846 faz parte de Cenas da Vida Parisiense (Estudos de Costumes), formando com "O Primo Pons", Os Parente Pobres, uma subdivisão dentro da CH.
Lisbeth, prima da baronesa Adelina Hulot, nutre por essa última uma mágoa misturada à inveja antigas e sonha em um dia poder se vingar, não apenas dela mas de toda a família direta e colateral. Não há um motivo tão concreto: faltou-lhe beleza, oportunidade de um bom casamento, fortuna. Bete sempre se sentiu humilhada perante Adelina e não se i
...more
J.
Jan 31, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pomegranate fanciers
Shelves: city-of-light, france
"... there is, in the ocean of generations, an Aphrodisian current whence every such Venus is born, all daughters of the same salt wave..."
Can't say I'll be reading a long list of Balzac titles in my near-future. There is a longstanding tradition of the French bedroom farce out there, and while this is a close relation, that's not quite what it is. What's here, (and at some length), is a kind of mirthless, hectoring plot-loop, cautionary tales that vary little as they repeat, set in Paris, circa
...more
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Huntsville-Madiso...: Staff Pick - Cousin Bette by Honore de Balzac 1 13 Jan 02, 2018 05:56PM  
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Honoré de Balzac was a nineteenth-century French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of almost 100 novels and plays collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte in 1815.

Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders o
...more
More about Honoré de Balzac

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“If the artist does not fling himself, without reflecting, into his work, as Curtis flung himself into the yawning gulf, as the soldier flings himself into the enemy's trenches, and if, once in this crater, he does not work like a miner on whom the walls of his gallery have fallen in; if he contemplates difficulties instead of overcoming them one by one ... he is simply looking on at the suicide of his own talent.” 21 likes
“Hortense was a wife; Valerie a mistress.
Many men desire to have these two editions of the same work, although it is proof of deep inferiority in a man if he cannot make his wife his mistress. Seeking variety is a sign of impotence.”
12 likes
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