Lost Illusions – Honore De Balzac Review

Progress on Alternate: EEK.

Current Review:

I want to talk a bit about this book. I picked it up primarily due to three reasons: a) it’s by a French author, and right now I’m taking a particular interest in French literature, b) an assurance of a vain, almost unlikeable protagonist, and c) a lot of people talked about it in relation to the Romantics, the prose and poetry movement.

As expected, I really do like Lucien. It’s odd. Perfect, ideal characters are NEVER for me. Give them flaws any day. I’m flawed, they should be too dammit. I love his mistakes, his naivety as well as his vanity and pride. There was a moment where his friends offered to lend him money and he immediately gave it back where I just sort of went ‘okay, other people feel like that too’.

I also loved the detail. As far as I know, Honore De Balzac (excuse the lack of appropriate punctuation, it’s not possible on this keyboard) was involved in the printing business, which explains all of the talk of how it works… but as a writer and someone interested in old methods of printing, I loved that.

Lucien’s friends, poor things, were long suffering and beautiful. Good lord. I wanted to tell them to get out of there. Such beautiful souls. And a shining contrast to this conceited man character. But at the same time Lucien wasn’t, or I didn’t find him, unlikeable. He had his soft side. He was vain, but at the same time truly vulnerable. I love that.

Finally, I have to talk about the social commentary here. I love that sort of thing, particularly in classics, because I find that world fascinating. Full of politeness and careful phrasing, hidden meanings and subtle hints. People tell me today’s world isn’t like that, but sometimes I feel it is. And understanding it can be so difficult, especially if you feel outside of it in some way.

I can really understand why some people don’t like this book. There is a lot of printing detail, there’s a lot of back and forth, political opinions, things that we wouldn’t necessarily include in a book today. But at the same time those are the very reasons I like it. I would consider attitudes to this a little like attitudes to Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables… In that the prose is sometimes interrupted with detail that appears odd, or the characters appear to be mouthpieces for the author’s own opinions… but to me, that’s FUN. I very much LIKE to see that sort of thing when I’m reading, because I enjoy the ideas that are put forward. If I was looking for a light, fun read, however, I would pick up something entirely different.

-K Hart


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