Monday, September 13, 2010

Les Liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos


Who knew that a novel written in the 18th century could be this intriguing? At first, when I saw that the novel was written in the form of a series of letters I was certain that boredom and inanimate plot was to follow. But, once again I was wrong, and quite happily so. The format (of letters) proved actually to be very effective way to carry on the plot quite speedily and interestingly. All the letters not contributing to the storyline behind them were "left out" (I also enjoyed the little remarks byt the "editor", they were a nice touch) and the story didn' t drag or focus on descriptions as it sometimes tends to do in historic novels.

I got carried away with the scheming of Valmont and Merteuil so much that I ended up wolfing down almost the entire thing in one afternoon. In my opinion it is quite rare to find classics that are this easy to read and was not expecting this at all so I was very pleasantly surprised by this piece. I did sometimes find the characters a bit, shall we say, over the top (I for one find it very hard to accept that someone would actually die of a broken heart...). I did however like the way they were presented; most of their attributes were not spelled out but the reader got a sense of what they're like through their style of writing and the nature of the character could be read in between the lines of the letters written by them.

All in all I found this to be a very enjoyable read, one that I might even be tempted to pick up again at some point. But then again I know ii would say: "D'uh, what did you expect?? Intrigue, seduction, evil plotting... this one's write up your alley!" And of course she would be absolutely right. *evil grin*


Okay, seriously? Death by broken heart? Seriously? And like can be interpreted with very little effort from my comments on the movie, I did not like the book. Or "not like" is really the wrong term. Let's say I did not enjoy it. That's better. The characters... I couldn't relate to any of them. I found them sleazy (Valmont), boring (Tourvel), annoyingly stupid (Cécile) or just annoying (Danceny). The only characters I had any positive feelings towards were Merteuil for her spunk and evilry (it's a word, trust me), and Madame de Rosemonde for her realism and c'est la vie attitude. She was cool.

But while I did find this a tedious book to read, especially the letters of the bag-of-hot-air Valmont, I have to applaud Laclos for creating very distinct voices for them all. It's a testament to his skill (if we're not buying this whole "these are actual letters" story) that I was able to hate the characters so much. Had they all been the same old same old, I would have been more "this book sucks" instead of "these characters are insipid and annoying".

I did enjoy Merteuil's scheming. She did it the classy way. Valmont's use of violence totally turned me against him, and I could not approve his behavior like I did Merteuil's. Merteuil played by some rules, she just outsmarted others. Valmont used violence against a weaker and defenseless opponent: the women. Merteuil said it herself very well in her letter (although in reply to something totally different): It's not to my taste and it's not my style. (Letter 159) I liked that quote.

In the end the pace picked up again, and while I was wondering why this was, I realized it was because the letters by Valmont were missing. Haha. This is one of those books that are tedious to read but kinda good when you look back on them. Weird, that...

From this one we gained 10 points for The 4 months challenge in category "Read a book set in France".


  1. Ooooh. Death by broken heart, are we talking annoying young girl who sadly sighs and makes you want to rip your hair out, or something more legit? I haven't read it yet, so I find myself curious.

  2. We're talking god-fearing religious married woman who gives in to a known Lothario, falls in love and gets dumped. Gets all feverish and dies.

    I'm all for drama, but that's a bit much, don't you think??

  3. Ahh, so basically a woman who should've known she had it coming. Fantastic.

    I'm generally a fan of living vicariously (drama wise) through books, but agreed, definitely over the top.

  4. Yes. Now, suicide I would have understood. After all, she was off God's good books already because of the affair so what did she have to loose? But just perishing off for broken heart-induced fever? Very dramatic, and highly unlikely. Good fun, though. And really, the exclamation "if he leaves me I'll just die!" has to come from something...

    But if you live through books, be careful. What if you get so entangled into the book, that it ends up breaking your heart? We wouldn't want to to die of a broken heart, after all...

  5. You hold a mighty good point. What good would I be to the world if I let a fake player lead to my untimely and ultimately awful death?

    That's just not sitting kosher with me.