The bourgeoisie

Paris is perhaps the greatest character in Balzac’s Human Comedy

Open one of the major novels by Honoré de Balzac and you are likely to encounter a sentence such as this, from Cousin Bette: ‘Towards the middle of July, in the year 1838, one of those vehicles called milords, then appearing in the Paris squares for the first time, was driving along the rue de l’Université.’ Or this (from César Birroteau): ‘On winter nights there is no more than a momentary lull in the noise of the rue Saint-Honoré.’ It is the same story in Père Goriot (rue Neuve-Sainte-Geneviève), Cousin Pons (Boulevard des Italiens) and others. From the first words of the tale, the reader is cast into the drama

Love in idleness: The Four Corners of the Heart, by Françoise Sagan, reviewed

Do not be alarmed. You have not suffered a blow to the head. Françoise Sagan, the author of the 1954 phenomenon Bonjour Tristesse (published when she was 18; two million copies sold), is indeed no longer with us. She died in 2004, aged 69. Yet here is her brand new novel, recovered by her son Denis Westhoff from the mass – and presumably mess – of her papers. Perhaps better described as an unfinished story, there’s a romantic charm, innocence and otherworldliness to this book of a kind unlikely to be found in a contemporary novel. But it’s also an uncomfortable read in parts, no matter how ironic the text