Let them eat cake, no really they need something to do – “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Choderlos de Laclos

January 22, 2012 at 7:19 pm 2 comments

“Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Choderlos de Laclos, Published in 1782

This was a fun novel and worth reading. I will say that the 1988 film with Glenn Close and John Malkovich did a good job of portraying the book, if I remember right. So I suggest reading the book and then watching the movie or I guess you could cheat and just watch the movie (but I would never suggest that of course).

Cover of "Les Liaisons Dangereuses"

Cover of Les Liaisons Dangereuses

This novel is a series of letters between the different characters but mainly between the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil.  As members of the French aristocracy, between the two of them they run quite a racket of avenging “wrongs” and ruining lives through amazingly exhausting exploits and sexual adventures.   These exploits include rape, faking being raped, what would now be called stalking, ruining careers, ruining marriages and this is all in just the first 200 pages.  Impressive I know. Of course all of this ultimately results in a tragic end for both the Vicomte and the Marquise.

This book is delightfully malicious.  The Vicomte and the Marquise are vicious but you have to  respect their determination. The “virtuous” characters are insipid and often seem deserving of their fates. But then as I got to the end and everything ends so badly for everyone I did start to feel guilty for enjoying the downfall of the “good” characters. What makes this novel so fun is as the reader you really don’t know who you are rooting for and you really don’t care.

It is unclear what de Laclos had in mind when he wrote “Les Liaisons Dangereuse.”  When it was published it was apparently enjoyed by the aristocracy, including Marie Antoinette.  However, later this book was thought to be a commentary on the French aristocracy, their boredom and cruelty. Perhaps ironic then that Marie Antoinette enjoyed it so much.

I was impressed by the sarcasm and the tone of this novel. And for the period piece that it is, it was a quick and easy read.  And at the very least, de Laclos has captured something that interests us all (even if we don’t admit it) – reading about the rich and their exploits.  Magazines and E! television make millions every year doing the same thing.  Not to mention all of the reality T.V. shows. And when you really think about it the rich are still very often bored, insipid and cruel.   Ah, foolish consistency…


Entry filed under: January 2012 reads. Tags: , , .

Hanging onto the branch hoping – “The Marriage Plot” by Jeffrey Eugenides Ms. Christie and I get on smashingly – “And Then There Were None” by Agatha Christie

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Nella  |  January 23, 2012 at 1:22 am

    I also remember the movie, which was fantastic. I hope you didn’t read this in French, did you? I am vastly impressed if you did, but wouldn’t be able to read it myself then.

    • 2. Emily C  |  January 24, 2012 at 12:31 pm

      Oh no, I wish I could have read it in French but unfortunately my French is pathetic. I know there are a lot of published English versions (as mine was).


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There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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