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Publisher's Summary

The Bette referred to in this magnificent novel's title is Lisbeth Fischer, an excruciatingly cunning poor relation who both depends upon and nurses a terrible grudge against the family of her beautiful cousin, Adeline. That family is slowly being ruined by the uncontrollable sexual appetites of Adeline's husband, Baron Hulot - appetites that will, in time, give Cousin Bette opportunity to exact her vengeance.

Balzac described Cousin Bette as one of his "scenes of Parisian life", and it is certainly that. It offers us a hypnotic vision of that infinitely varied city during the bright, vital, scandalous, and sexually untrammeled era of King Louis-Philippe. The courtesans, swindlers, bankers, artists, murderers, detectives, and saints populating this world pass before us invested with a verve and vividness unsurpassed in the history of the novel.

(P)1999 Blackstone Audio Inc.

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  • Overall


This is a delightful, witty, scathingly ironic novel of 18th century Paris. Joanna Ward raises it to even greater heights -- she is simply a wonderful narrator.

22 of 22 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Adrienne
  • Camp Connell, CA, United States
  • 03-18-07


This book falls into the category of "can't put it down." I found it to be fascinating and captivating, all of the characters are rich. I found that I had to really listen and pay attention, especially in the beginning, but once I was hooked it was most rewarding. The narrator does an exceptional job. You will think about this story even when you are not listening to it.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jed
  • New York, NY, USA
  • 06-25-10

Great reader

Johanna Ward is a suberb reader.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Angie
  • Kansas City, MO, United States
  • 04-25-08


I loved this book. it was very modern despite being an old book. It actually reminded me alot of Anna Karinena I would recommend his book to any one. The narrator was excellent too.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Gare
  • Washington, DC, USA
  • 04-13-08

Pre-code scandlous fun

A fine example of inspired professional writing. I read this book after it was mentioned in Prose's reading like a writer...and I was not disappointed. The style of writing is while florid, still engaging and accessible. The number of French clich?s is a delight to the student of language, but having a basic command of French and Paris will make the book all the more enjoying. I recommend this book as the audio backdrop for a 2 week vacation in Paris.

But, I warn the naive or moralistic that this book can be quite shocking...although never pornographic. Rich complex, although often cartoonish character studies.

Good emotional insights, and many tragic insights on the struggles of the un-attractive vs the favored and the transitory nature of both.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • Janey
  • Willows, CA, United States
  • 12-19-11

Great story!

Would you listen to Cousin Bette again? Why?

I did listen twice because I could not keep the characters apart and the reader didn't change her voice enough to help me remember individual characters. After I got past that it was easier to listen to.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Actually, none of them since none were able to see their own problems let alone do anything about them.

Did the narration match the pace of the story?

In the beginning it was difficult to keep the characters apart.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, not possible.

Any additional comments?

I was a lot like a modern day soap opera.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Moe
  • Oakland, CA, United States
  • 01-07-10

A morale tale of greed, envy, and vice.

I don't know. Though it seems like a good topic roster to listen to, I had trouble staying interested at times. Maybe it was the reading.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Thoroughly enjoyable

Great story that feels immediate, even though the world has changed. People always want more sex, security and power. Universal.

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  • Alla
  • Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada
  • 09-10-12

Doing justice to Balzac

Johanna Ward reads this book beautifully! She clearly has excellent control of both French and English and it shows! Thanks!

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Absolutely delicious, and so very, very French!

Balzac does not need another literary review, that's for certain, so I can only say how much I loved this book from the first time I read it. I enjoy returning to it from time to time, like an ancestral photograph album. It captures a time with characters that stay with one long after the story is over.

It speaks of many themes. Some are funny --- "There's no fool like an old fool." And some are sad --- "Goodness and virtue do not triumph, but lead to a slow martyrdom." And these, with other themes, resonate with truth because of Balzac's incisive wit and realistic descriptions.

Johanna Ward's narration makes it an incomparable treat. I listened to her performance while costuming an Huret doll, and hearing about the sewing and fashions again made me almost feel a wicked kinship with Bette herself! Ward makes every word delightful.

Highly recommended to those with patience for the literary pace of the time, and for those who love all things French.