Instead I got an historical romance in the tradition of Walter Scott for which the Chouan Insurgency was a mere background. Les Chouans is one of Balzac's earlier novels and very simply one of his weaker efforts. Balzac has given us many exce Les Chouans was a huge disappointment for me. Balzac has given us many excellent works. I cannot see any good reason for anyone to waste his or her time with this second-rate book. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers.
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To view it, click here. This isn't a review; it's just a summary from my reading journal. There are spoilers throughout. In the end I had to download it from Project Gutenberg but couldn't bear reading it on a computer screen and in the end I printed out all pages of it. It was a horrible and wasteful way to read a book! Thank goodness I now have a Kindle and can download Balzac from This isn't a review; it's just a summary from my reading journal.
Thank goodness I now have a Kindle and can download Balzac from manybooks. Since there has been a helpful plot summary and background info about the revolution on Wikipedia, http: What follows is my interpretation of events The Royalists are still in rebellion and they have used the local Chouans to create an insurgency.
Hulot, a professional soldier, has been sent to suppress it, and he's the only one in the whole story whose loyalty doesn't waver. He serves France, and he fights according to his code of honour. These rustic Chouans rise up in support of the King-in-Exile and his supporters, who include the British , their leader being one Marche-a-Terre.
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- The Chouans by Honoré de Balzac.
- The Chouans.
This man dresses in furs and seems indistinguishable in the rural landscape, a handy attribute for a guerilla. The Chouans are their own men, but they are also in league with 'Le Gars' an alias for the royalist leader, the Marquis de Montauran. In the beginning we are not at all sure about the loyalties of the other characters. Marie de Vermeuill has been sent by Paris to seduce Montauran and so subdue the rebellion, and she's been paid , francs to do it. She is accompanied by her maid Francine, whose lover is Marche a Terre, the leader of the Chouans i.
Though it's not clear if she still loves Marche a Terre, later on when Marie is in peril, this maid draws on his love for her to protect her mistress. Anyway, although Balzac's story includes military operations, it's not really about the Chouans - the focus is really a love story about a treacherous woman who loses her heart to a man on the opposite side of the political fence, and it epitomises the human cost of the revolutionary period in France.
At the start of the story the Chouans in support of the Royalists attack the Republicans led by Commander Hulot and they attract many of the local peasants to their cause. This infuriates Hulot a stolid old soldier who serves the government of the day whoever it is but likes to have his military judgement respected and he resigns, but he has to come back when his replacement Captain Merle is shot in an act of treachery caused by Mme de Gua.
Marie meets up with this Madame de Gua at an inn on the road, and is immediately entranced by her 'son' who, as it turns out, is the leader of the Royalists, Montauran i. Mme de Gua is instantly suspicious of Marie, not to mention extremely jealous. She's travelling disguised as the mother of 'Le Gars' but she's obviously much too young to be his mother The story sometimes verges on farce as the plot twists and turns. This was Balzac's first serious story but the melodramatic influence of his previous pot-boilers shows in his style.
Marie makes her way to Viveterre where she is supposed to have safe passage after 'Le Gars' gave her his grey glove. But Mme de Gua is there, and she suspects Marie. A rumour that she was a Parisian courtesan circulates, and Montauran goes cold on her. Marie denies the rumours but she has to flee and the suspicion of treachery leads to the massacre of 65 of Hulot's men by the Chouans.
Inevitably they meet up again and resolve the issue but the reader isn't sure who is duping whom. Marie hides out in the house of a miser and witnesses his torture at the hands of Marche a Terre's cruel offsider Pille-Miche. She's so beautiful that after she pretends to be a ghost and the other men flee!
Naturally she refuses but he helps her anyway and sends her off to the hovel of Galope-Chopin, a local whose help can be bought by either side. Hiding there, Marie is surprised by the Comte de Bauvac, also hiding out. Anyway, he gives her safe passage to go to a Ball that Montauran is holding which seems a little odd in the middle of a war but I guess that's why the aristocrats lost the battle, eh?
So off goes Marie, makes up with Montauran and confesses that yes, she is the illegitimate daughter of the Marquis de Vermeuill and has been forced by circumstances to fend for herself. After her mother went into a nunnery to absolve her shame and then died, her father the marquis took her in and left her money in his Will. But when he died his son challenged the Will and - having become used to a life of luxury - Marie went to live with an elderly gent of 70 who became her guardian.
Paris society of course thought that she was his courtesan and he left Paris in embarrassment, leaving her penniless. Imprudently she then married Danton, rival of Robespierre, but had to embark on her life of intrigue when he died leaving her again penniless. Montauran decides to overlook all this and to marry her so they agree to meet at Marie's house in Fougeres. He sets off to organise the priest and witnesses but meanwhile the hunt for him is on. Corentin, Fouche's wily spy, manages to find out about his whereabouts from Barbette, the wife of Galope-Chopin, who doesn't realise she's dealing with the Blues Republicans because Corentin has disguised himself as a Chouan.
It doesn't help the confusion that Balzac keeps using different names for his characters and the opposing sides. After Corentin has left, Galope-Chopin comes home, and discovers what Barbette has done. He's furious and sends her away, but it's too late. Marche a Terre and Pille-Miche arrive and behead him as a traitor. Barbette comes back to find his head swinging from the door and tells her son to serve the Blues to avenge his father's death.
She actually makes the child wear his father's bloodied boot! So now Barbette's allegiance really swings to the Republicans and she goes off to tell Hulot and Corentin about the smoke signal that will reveal Montauran's arrival at Fougeres. Now aware of Marie's treachery, Corentin plots her downfall using guile to do it. He arranges for her to receive a letter purporting to be a love-letter from Montauran to Mme de Gua. Marie is furious, denounces him to Hulot and then sets off to confront him. When they meet, of course, she realises the letter was from Corentin and bitterly regrets her actions.
They marry, spend a blissful night together and then try to flee. Marie disguises herself in Montauran's clothes to try to draw fire away from him while he, dressed as a Chouan, climbs down a ladder provided by Marche a Terre but he is shot and they die in each others arms as Corentin and Hulot squabble about the dishonourable way the deed was done. So, things went badly awry for Marie. She fell for Montauran and ended up double-crossing herself and everyone else. She abandoned Corentin, her co-conspirator from Paris and because she couldn't stand the rough-and-ready Chouans, she came up with her own plan - to marry their leader, i.
Corentin retaliated by fooling her into believing that Montauran loved her rival Mme de Gua and so Marie ordered Hulot to destroy the rebels. She found out the truth too late, and she couldn't save Montauran. They died, the day after they were married. Well, what else could Balzac do? History was already written, and he couldn't have a Royalist leader and his traitorous bride live happily ever after, eh? At one point even a mustache is twirled! I will say it might have been helpful for one of fhe allied planners to have read this before DDay because Balzac gives a very detailed description of the Norman field system and the difficulty of military units passing through, let alone fighting in, the Bocage.
But with Les Chouans that changed. While this novel, written in the style of Sir Walter Scott, was not well-reviewed at the time of its publication, it set the stage for what was to follow, plus works by one of the most prolific of writers, who would come to be viewed as the father of Realism in literature and a major literary influence of the 19th century, the man who inspired Proust, Marx and Engels, Henry James, Charles Baudelaire, Flaubert and countless others.
Set in the days after the French Revolution this novel tells the story of the Chouans, Breton peasants who sided with the Royalists over the Republicans and fought to restore the throne in the days after the 18 Brumaire that brought Napoleon to power. Will Marie betray Montauran? Does Montauran really love Marie as he says he does? Does his heart really belong to the woman who poses as his mother, Madame du Gua? Can the vile spy Corentin woo Marie and win her over Montauran?
Balzac plays with these ideas back and forth, like a cat swatting a ball of yarn to and fro between its paws, to the point of tedium. The novel could have easily been a novella or could have been strengthened with richer subplots. This historical novel was enough to give Balzac his start and the rest is history. Mar 06, Casey rated it liked it Shelves: Be prepared for every character, place, and group in this book to be referred to by multiple names, even in the same paragraph.
The Royalists are uprising against Bonaparte, and even though he has granted them amnesty for all past wrong-doings, the Royalists will not stand down. Mademoiselle Marie de Verneuil, and her accomplice Francine, have been sent by Bonaparte to seduce Marquis de Montauran to undermine the Royalist uprising - to hand over The Gars to the Republicans. Verneuil meets Montauran in an inn by chance and she does not immediately know who he is, although she quickly concludes who he must be.
Verneuil and Francine join Montauran on his travels because Verneuil and Montauran have an instant attraction to each other. Du Gua becomes fiercely jealous of Verneuil and suspects her of treachery. Verneuil begins to truly fall in love with Montauran and is faced with a crisis; Montauran is aware of what Verneuil has been sent to do, but he cannot help but have feelings for her as well.
Parallel to this romance is Francine and Marche-a-Terre who are also in love under the same predicament. Madame du Gua spends her time declaring Verneuil a strumpet and plotting her downfall. One instance actually involves physically attacking Verneuil to get a letter out of her corset. In fact, the female characters act very dramatically in soap-opera like fashion. The man who pledged her so much love must have heard the odious jests that were cast upon her and stood there silently a witness of the infamy she had been made to endure. She might, perhaps, have forgiven him his contempt, but she could not forgive his having seen her in so humiliating a position, and she flung him a look that was full of hatred, feeling in her heart the birth of an unutterable desire for vengeance.
With death beside her, the sense of impotence strangled her. A whirlwind of passion and madness rose in her head; the blood which boiled in her veins made everything about her seem like a conflagration. Instead of killing herself, she seized the sword and thrust it through the marquis. But the weapon slipped between his arm, and side; he caught her by the wrist and dragged her from the room, aided by Pille-Miche, who had flung himself upon the furious creature when she attacked his master.
Half of the book seems to describe how they never take a bath. The rest of the book details this tumultuous relationship and the plight of Verneuil as she realizes that her life has been turned upside down by her love for Montauran and her responsibility to bring about his downfall. If I do not make him my lackey and my slave, I shall indeed be base; I shall not be a woman; I shall not be myself.
As everything progresses, it is mainly one scene after another of Verneuil getting into some sort of scheme related to the Marquis, with various small skirmishes between the Chouans and the Republicans. For some reason, Verneuil is often walking down the road right in the middle of these encounters. The Chouans could easily be updated to a modern harlequin romance today and leave much of the plot intact. Scott writes with more finesse and beauty. Even though I initially thought this might be an ode to the bravery and valor of the Chouans, it is not so.
The two main characters in the romance are not Chouans, so I am not sure why Balzac decided on the title because he certainly did not give them a glorifying homage. All that being said, the book is still a fun read and it is entertaining, even if it does drag on near the end. Descrierile sunt imposibil de lungi. Apoi, bretonii razvratiti impotriva proaspetei republici franceze, e un subiect departe de mine.
Nov 08, Rhonda added it Shelves: I had the great fortune to stop by my local bookstore the day after they had received a number of books from an estate sale. I wanted to select them all, of course, because they were books from the days when people, well, read good books or perhaps I may say without giving offense, classic books. Judging from the signature inside the covers, they all belonged to the same woman and they were all dated from the late 19th and early 20th century. There were various partial collections of some great I had the great fortune to stop by my local bookstore the day after they had received a number of books from an estate sale.
CHOUAN: For God and King
There were various partial collections of some great names, names which no one reads all that much any more. Being in such a place always reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode titled "All the Time In the World," a veritable feast of what is wonderful in humanity, without Serling's bitterly ironic ending. Still I selected several with which I was not familiar and set about to peer into the lives of others, in several senses.
- The I Game?
- Exodus: Gods and Kings - Wikipedia.
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- Sins of Omission;
Nevertheless, I digress away from the book, which is historical fiction and a pivotal point, according to experts, in Balzac's career. I had to read about the uprisings in Brittany after the French revolution and even then, the history is difficult to follow. As with any civil strife, this group royalist is angry at something another republican group does and therein lies the end to it unless you wish to delve into the details of the Chouan uprising.
It is not uninteresting, but it does become detailed for our purposes here. In , a group of royalists banded together against the republic. However, the insurrection was put down and within two years the royalist forces had been routed. Still pockets of resistance remained and therein lies this story. Naturally the army would like to strike the critical blow and end the fighting. Naturally it doesn't exactly accomplish this. Balzac has been criticized for his boring commentary on military campaigning and, indeed, some parts do plod along. However, I gathered that this was for the most part from the skill of the writer.
The greater part of the book is a love story between an aristocratic young woman and a Chouan loyalist, recently returned from hiding in England. It seems that the government has placed a price on his head so the return is not only of the utmost importance but of critical secrecy. Where Balzac truly shines, however, is in his character development. One can hardly imagine him writing more accurate people.
There is a certain idealism, of course, but then we are writing a love story. There is treachery and villainy. Ultimately one is reminded of Romeo and Juliet especially at the end with the plot twist. Although the entire book centers around the romance of Montauran and Marie de Verneuil, it does little to overwhelm it. Balzac is a master at weaving the various issues in and out so that ultimately you wonder whether anything besides the love affair matters very much at all.
This book is said to have gone through three revisions, the last of which is said to be both much more sympathetic to the royalist position and also, far more expansive in his treatment of women. As such, one might enjoy reading an earlier version for comparison, but as it is, this is a superb book which deserves far more credit than it deserves, in my opinion.
May 08, Daniel rated it really liked it Shelves: Romeo and Juliet set during the late 18th century with Napoleon on the charge, war on many fronts and civil strife erupting within. The brutality consistent throughout the other 7 Balzac novels I have devoured - all of which felt a part of my life for the duration - remains prevalent in The Chuoans, yet rather than manifesting through cunning manipulation and society high and low's quest for improving their situation, it appears far more carnal.
The blood letting is horrid, feels real. I will turn off this spell-check; it transformed believe to beige! I am glad you deciphered that Samuel was not undressing, but was interesting. Tell Samuel I sent you. It was one of those delightful meetings when you have a lot in common and feel that someone really gets you. He comes to New York often on business. Anyway, it is interesting to read accounts of Chouans, and then have a descendant step off the page, confirming sentiments which have not changed.
I got your meaning, Genevieve! Those automatic spell correctors are something else. Thanks for the address. But it is a very complex topic. This is the problem with iPhone—you type one letter wrong, it spell-checks, and results in an entirely inappropriate word. I suppose there are protections against the f word; at least I hope so. You will enjoy speaking with him, for sure. And adamant in his convictions that the Freemasons brought down the monarchy; or led to the inevitable collapse, and the philosophesWhat do you think?
This post cannot begin to do justice to its unique, as you say heritage, but I hope it familiarizes my readers with this part of its history. Susan, yes, even without the benefit of modern photography, television, etc. Certainly a great portrait of a fearless man. Elizabeth, I hope this throws some light on an extremely vast and complex movement. Richard, as usual, thanks for the link!
I must admit I was thinking of you when I posted this portrait. Needless to say, he had not celebrated Bastille Day! He is currently vacationing in Normandy, Britany, but you might like to meet him; his name is Samuel Vezinat, and he has a shop in one of the passages in the 9th I believe. Vergennes, or Vergeau or something. I can understand why Chouan and his followers would have chosen not to sit for a portrait. Whether this posthumous portrait is a good likeness or not, it does seem to capture the spirit! As one of Breton descent, I thank you for this post, Catherine! Many people are unfamiliar with Brittany and of the unique Franco-Celtic heritage of its people.
Unfortunately, Chouan never had the opportunity to sit for his likeness during his eventful lifetime. This was painted by one Labarre after his death, from various eyewitness accounts. Same thing with the Chouan Ambush scene. It was also painted by Evariste Carpentier, a Belgian painter, in the second half of the 19th century. The Chouan imagery was not a contemporary phenomenon….
CHOUAN: For God and King by Edward John Crockett |
What are the two paintings that illustrate the blog? The portrait in particular has a real intensity to it…. Click here to cancel reply.
Mail will not be published. Jean Cottereau, known as Jean Chouan. August 3, at August 2, at 7: July 28, at