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A Harlot High and Low (Penguin Classics) Paperback – December 30, 1970

ISBN-13: 978-0140442328 ISBN-10: 0140442324 Edition: New Impression

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Impression edition (December 30, 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140442324
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140442328
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #202,398 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, French (translation)

About the Author

The son of a civil servant, Honoré de Balzac was born in 1799 in Tours, France. After attending boarding school in Vendôme, he gravitated to Paris where he worked as a legal clerk and a hack writer, using various pseudonyms, often in collaboration with other writers. Balzac turned exclusively to fiction at the age of thirty and went on to write a large number of novels and short stories set amid turbulent nineteenth-century France. He entitled his collective works The Human Comedy. Along with Victor Hugo and Dumas père and fils, Balzac was one of the pillars of French romantic literature. He died in 1850, shortly after his marriage to the Polish countess Evelina Hanska, his lover of eighteen years.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 14 customer reviews
I must admit it is not as good overall as Lost Illusions, but this book is worth reading.
Paul M. Burns
Balzac is a great one to read if you want to understand how society works, and in this case, how these inhuman humans called psychopaths work.
ReasonableGoatPerson
As juicy as the most scandelous TV show, although it may cheapen such fine writing to make a comparison like that!
arieswoman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on January 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
I just had to find out what happened to Lucien, when he was so mysteriously (and admittedly, a bit too miraculously) saved from suicide at the end of Illusions Perdues. This is the place to find it.
The interesting thing is that Lucien is not the principal player here: it is an equally mysterious mentor, whose identity and methods are revealed as the plot thickens. Another character is the "harlot" from the title in English, which misconstrues the character of the novel. She is Esther, who is Lucien's true love, whom he uplifts from prostitution to install as his secret mistress. There is also Nucingen, the Jewish banker whom Balzac despises (from the novel of the same name), and several wily spies.
I must say that, though I love Balzac, this novel wore a bit thin on me: it has too many unlikely coincidences and is crowned with a cynicism in the surprise ending that stretched way beyond what I could believe, even when taking into account the French judicial system. That being said, Balzac offers a wonderful tour of the underbelly of the life of the scheming courtesan: without revealing too much of the plot, having given up on art, Lucien is trying to enter the aristocracy as a diplomat with the rank of Marquise. But to do so, he had to marry the right woman, buy his ancestral grounds, and somehow pose as a dandy when he is in fact flat broke. One pole of the plot revolves around the maneuvering of his mentor, who proves himself exceptionally cunning, the other around Lucien's true love. Needless to say, there are betrayals, hidden enemies, and ruthless manipulations that destroy oh-so-many lives. In the end, it is mostly sad, except for...well, you have to read it to believe it!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Flippy on September 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be a disappointment. I have read other works by Balzac in various translations (most of them in the Penguin Classics series)but I couldn't finish this one.

Why? I just couldn't read another page (I made it to page 259)... The book begins well enough, a typical Balzacian-beginning wherein a figure appears in the midst of a Parisian scene. We are once again in the midst of a stirring ensemble of gossip and curiosity. I enjoyed that part. The reader follows Lucien along, we meet his true love Esther and we meet the dubious Vautrin as well. Everything starts off with grace and intrigue.

And then it just dips off into the ridiculous. I found the character of Nucingen far too incredible to be believed. A man with so much money willing to give it all for glimpses of fair Esther (foolish and moronic for a man with so much money...he's more of a buffoon than a banker and I'm sure a banker would have more sense. It was far too unbelievable the ways he was screwed over in the book.) And of course reading the Polish aristocrat's conversation is equally excruciating (imagine someone talking with a stuff-nose and that is how Rayner Heppenstall has rendered the Slavic Baron's speech.)

For about two hundred pages, the intrigue begins to wear thin. It borders on farce at times, cartoon-like... two hundred pages of basically scamming money out of a stupid, unsympathetic character so other characters equally uninteresting can pay off their debts. The characterizations are weak, many who started out with three-dimensions begin to falter into two-and-one dimensional personas.

Unless you're really a fan of Balzac, I wouldn't bother with this one.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book chronicling the lives of an up and coming minor noble, a harlot, and a "faux" priest/arch-criminal has some of the best character development I have seen. The plot is so convoluted and strange that it seems implausible. However, stranger things have happened! I was disappointed in the ending but still enjoyed the book
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Burns on July 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
I must admit it is not as good overall as Lost Illusions, but this book is worth reading. It is like a twisted version of Les Miserables. There are some sublime moments late in the novel. It is a bit slow in parts of the book, but I found it worthwhile.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By arieswoman on November 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was hungry for this book for months after the end of Lost Illusions, which concluded saying that Luciens life in Paris would be continued in Scenes from Paris Life, obviously an abstract title to the Paris series of the Human Comedy. Finially I found it. This read much faster than Lost Illusions. There was more action packed into fewer pages, which really quenched my thirst for all the characters that I knew from Balzacs other novels and their going ons about Paris. This novel epitomizes Balzacs gossipy toned, money ridden, scandelous style . If you are daunted by the heavy and lengthy discriptions that fill so many substantially sized French novels, this is definitly an unintimidating enjoyable read! As juicy as the most scandelous TV show, although it may cheapen such fine writing to make a comparison like that!
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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Ian Vance on March 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Like many other reviewers here at Amazon, I have a weakness for `Sequelitus.' What is this dreadful affliction, you might ask? Well, it is the compulsion to pursue a good story to its very end - enjoying the source media so much that it is paramount to ones mental comfort to locate and devour all related material. This can often lead to tragic result, for sequels tend, as a rule rather than as an exception, to wear thin the primary quality: the beauty and sweat-inducing power of the original diminished through needless repetition, theme-bastardization and/or the tangible fatigue of that most accursed of artistic predicaments: the necro-stench, the entropy, <the horror! the horror!> of author-enervation. Nothing like a terrible case of "twilight of the idols" to put one in a despondent mood! But, in the past few years, I've managed to curtail my tendency towards indiscriminate consumption. No more Wheel of Time for this jaded .com shopper! Get thee gone, foul Star Wars simulacra!
And yet. . . and yet here I am again. After the month-long endeavor of reading - nay, <savoring> - the delicious disenchantments of Honore de Balzac's *Lost Illusions,* I simply had to have the sequel post-haste. What would be the fate of Lucian Rebempre, *Illusions'* failed poet of increasingly ignoble achievement? Who _was_ the dastardly "priest" that plucked Lucien from the liquid depths of potential-Providence? Would they together storm the snooty ranks of Parisian high society, acquiring a noble rank for Lucien, enacting revenge on all those who had scorned the poet in his previous incarnation as a mudraker and news-shaper? I had to know.
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