Father Goriot – Book Review

Just finished reading Father Goriot (or Pere Goriot) by one of my favorite authors – Honore de Balzac. The highlight of this book is an examination of Parisian society in the post Napoleonic era and how it can cause so much greed for social status that children are willing to sacrifice their parents for it. It also draws attention to the fact that spoiling children and giving them everything they want is one of the worse parenting strategies.

Father Goriot
Father Goriot

It also introduces an important character who keeps popping up in Balzac’s other stories – Eugene de Rastignac. Balzac wrote a series of novels where characters from other stories keep floating in and out, while allowing each work to stand alone. Together they comprise the “La comedia Humana” or “The Human Comedy” probably as a counterpoint to Dante Aligieri’s Divine Comedy.

As usual, Balzac brings out the characters beautifully in a tale that will shock you. There are few authors so capable of effectively narrating the morass of upper society and because Balzac lived in a time when such things existed, it allows us to glimpse human nature in a way that we can never do so at this time. And yet since human nature hasn’t changed, we learn about ourselves and how we would behave under similar circumstances.

I’m going to be reading a lot more of Balzac. His earlier Lost Illusions also made a profound impact on me and was my first introduction to his works. Along with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Honore de Balzac has a special place in my heart.

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4 thoughts on “Father Goriot – Book Review”

  1. I have read nothing by this author :(

    The book also talks about children sacrificing their parents for ‘social status’? I feel humans give up a lot for social status, in India parents give up their children and children’s happiness for social status. There was another news yesterday about getting a son in law killed, and daughter raped because the parents disapproved of the match :(

    And then most Indian parents think, a girl’s broken marriage is bad for their social status.

    But I digress… I am going to keep Father Goriot in mind on my next trip to Landmark :)


  2. @indianhomemaker
    Yeah, I heard about this story. Shocking. I wonder what the rational is of using rape here. If I remember this incident correctly, the parents allowed family members to rape the girl to teach her a lesson. She then escaped – good for her, otherwise she would probably be dead.

    In this book, the two daughters are ashamed of their father who dotes on them. But no point in spoiling the plot :) . I didn’t know you were based in Chennai – I assume it’s the Chennai Landmark that draws you (and if you’re an old hand at this, it’ll be the Nungambakkam one)


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