Skip to main content

Therese by Francois Mauriac: book review




Therese (1927-1935, edition 2002) is a series of four novels in one compilation, covering the 1920s to the 1930s when Therese Desqueyroux is 30-45 years of age. The four novels are set in Argelouse, near Bordeaux, and in Paris.

Mauriac wrote Therese Desqueyroux in 1927, followed by Therese and the Doctor (1928), Therese at the Hotel (1928), and The End of the Night (1935). The English version of the first book was issued in 1928. English versions of the other three books were published in 1947. Therese and the Doctor – 20 pages – and Therese at the Hotel – 19 pages – are sandwiched between the main volumes – the beginning and the end. Mauriac wrote the remaining three novels to explain what happened to Therese after an abrupt and ambiguous ending to the first book.

The first book begins with Therese, 30 years of age, emerging from the courtroom where charges against her, for attempting to poison her husband, were dismissed. She is in a carriage driving home where she will be reunited with her husband, Bernard, who is recovering. Readers know that she did indeed plan to poison her husband, but her husband is not so sure, though he suspects that she is guilty. She is thinking about what she will tell him. He is thinking about her punishment.

Why did she do it? Although her father ‘was the only truly remarkable man she had ever known’ she thinks that ‘when all was said, Bernard wasn’t so bad.’ She had a husband, a two-year old daughter Marie, and a profitable plantation of pine trees – what more could she want?

The second book begins three years after the poisoning when she is 33 years old. The third book begins when she is 40 years old.

In the last book she is 45. Mauriac says that The End of the Night is not a sequel, but ‘a portrait of a woman in her decline.’ Therese is in Paris – with a heart condition and feeling old and alone. She has not seen Marie in three years, when suddenly Marie knocks at her mother’s door. Marie is now 17 years old, in love with Georges who is 22. Her happiness is entirely in the hands of her mother, because if Georges believes, as others do, that her mother is evil, there will be no chance of a wedding. Marie wants to know the truth.

Therese is complex. Is she evil, or mad, or paranoid, or a schemer, or a victim of circumstance? Mauriac’s writing is clever, never fully revealing Therese’s motives and true character. It is the reader who decides.


MARTINA NICOLLS is the author of:- The Shortness of Life: A Mongolian Lament (2015), Liberia’s Deadest Ends (2012), Bardot’s Comet (2011), Kashmir on a Knife-Edge (2010) and The Sudan Curse (2009).

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Meaning of Headlines: 'to make a stand' - culture

In the Culture section of the BBC appears an article published on 24 June 2016 with the headline: Sitting down to make a stand. What does ‘make a stand’ mean? ‘To make a stand’ or ‘to take a stand’ means ‘to make a determined effort to defend something or to stop something from happening’ according the Cambride Idioms Dictionary (2006, 2 nd edition). The American Heritage Idioms Dictionary indicates that ‘to make a stand’ means to ‘hold firm against someone or something.’ It’s early meaning was to hold ground against an enemy who held different views of a issue. Who is defending what against whom? And what does standing have to do with sitting down? The article explains that congressmen and women held a ‘sit-in’ on the floor of the United States House of Representatives during the week to ‘demand action on gun legislation.’ Initiated by civil rights leader, John Lewis, on Wednesday 22 June, 20 Democrats left their seats and sat on the floor in an effort to preve

The acacia thorn trees of Kenya

There are nearly 800 species of acacia trees in the world, and most don’t have thorns. The famous "whistling thorn tree" and the Umbrella Thorn tree of Kenya are species of acacia that do have thorns, or spines. Giraffes and other herbivores normally eat thorny acacia foliage, but leave the whistling thorn alone. Usually spines are no deterrent to giraffes. Their long tongues are adapted to strip the leaves from the branches despite the thorns. The thorny acacia like dry and hot conditions. The thorns typically occur in pairs and are 5-8 centimetres (2-3 inches) long. Spines can be straight or curved depending on the species. MARTINA NICOLLS is an international aid and development consultant, and the author of:- Similar But Different in the Animal Kingdom (2017), The Shortness of Life: A Mongolian Lament (2015), Liberia’s Deadest Ends (2012), Bardot’s Comet (2011), Kashmir on a Knife-Edge (2010) and The Suda

Australia: more snow than Switzerland

It is now springtime in Australia. But two hours from the spring flower festival, Floriade, in Australia’s capital, Canberra, snow is still falling in the Snowy Mountains. The ski season is from early July to mid-September, but in most years there is still good skiing until mid-November on the Kosciuszko main mountain range. The world’s longest continuously running ski club is in Australia. Three Norwegian miners introduced skiing to Australia in 1861 during the Gold Rush period in New South Wales. They constructed skis from natural wood and established the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club. In 1908 the town of Kiandra hosted the world’s first international Alpine Ski Carnival in which Denver skier, Charles Menger, from America, won the main event. Kiandra nowadays is not a ski resort, having died out after the Gold Rush. However, the Kiandra Snow Shoe Club was re-named the Kiandra Pioneer Ski Club and is based in a town called Perisher, two hours from Kiandra. Perisher, in the state of N