'For avarice begins where poverty ends'
Honoré de balzac once prophesised that ‘what Napoleon was unable to finish with the sword, I shall accomplish with the pen’ and the effect he had on 19th-century literature was indeed sweeping and revolutionary, with Charles Dickens, Henry James, Flaubert and Proust among the great writers influenced by him.
Lost Illusions is the story of a handsome and somewhat vain would-be poet, Lucien Chardon, whose ambition takes him from his insular provincial home into the patronage of the captivating Madame de Bargeton. He hopes she will be his stepping stone to the glamour of Parisian life, yet this is a world where reputation counts for everything – and, when the social standing of his patroness is compromised, Lucien finds himself at the mercy of a society that can close its doors on a whim.
His illusions are quickly shattered: what place can there be for the talents of a truthful poet amidst such intrigue and dishonesty? With his clear-eyed observations of human foibles and frailties, Balzac pioneered a new form of realism in fiction. He possessed a unique talent that led George Sand to call him ‘the master unequalled in the art of painting humanity as it exists in modern society’.
In his great sequence of novels written under the collective title of ‘La Comédie Humaine’, Balzac created an entire fictional universe. Lost Illusions, originally published in three parts between 1837 and 1843, was its high point, within which he reworked his own experiences – his friendships and animosities, youthful ambitions and professional misadventures. As an engrossing story of lost innocence and ambition, it is without equal.
Review by rayllompart on 22nd Jan 2013
"Balzac's book is fascinating, with meticulous detail of every possible area of interest, which curiously enough does not always appear necessary to the plot. His digressions are magnificent, and at th..." [read more]
Review by beechcottage on 20th Jul 2012
"This is a remarkable cornerstone of 19th-century literature. The story is a fast-paced narrative and is in every sense a 'page turner'. But more than this, it's a fascinating study in the socio-politi..." [read more]