Rating: 3 Stars ★★★☆☆
In my opinion, it is impossible to create characters until one has spent a long time in studying men, as it is impossible to speak a language until it has been seriously acquired.
The Lady of the Camellias tells the story of Marguerite Gautier, the most beautiful, brazen, and expensive courtesan in all of Paris. Known to all as “the Lady of the Camellias” because she is never seen without her favorite flowers, she leads a glittering life of endless parties and aristocratic balls, with the richest men in France flocking to her boudoir to lay their fortunes at her feet. But despite having many lovers, she has never really loved—until she meets Armand Duval, young, handsome, and from a lower social class, and yet hopelessly in love with Marguerite.
For twenty-five days of the month the camellias were white, and for five they were red; no one ever knew the reason of this change of colour, which I mention though I can not explain it; it was noticed both by her friends and by the habitue’s of the theatres to which she most often went. She was never seen with any flowers but camellias.
The Lady of the Camellias was a short and fascinating story. I really loved Marguerite Gautier as a character. Despite being a courtesan, she lives independently, able to choose her suitors and drop them when she wants to.
And she is an incredibly strong woman who has absolutely no illusions about her life and the people in her life. She knows the value of her so-called “friends” exactly. It was sad, because she is all alone and only her beauty and her riches are what draw people to her.
“But what do you think I am? I am neither maid nor duchess. I didn’t know you till today, and I am not responsible to you for my actions. Supposing one day I should become your mistress, you are bound to know that I have had other lovers beside you. If you make scenes of jealousy like this before, what will it be after, if that after should ever exist? I never met any one like you.”
“That is because no one has ever loved you as I love you.”
Even the man who is in the center of the great romance of the book, the man she comes to love, Armand Duval, is drawn to her mainly because of her beauty. And his wish to save her in some way.
In fact, I did not care for Armand at all. He does not really accept her as she is. Instead, he is eager to mold her into his idea of her. Our “hero” is too possessive, too obsessed with her. I really, really did not understand what Marguerite sees in him.
I had only known Marguerite for thirty-six hours; I had been her lover for only twenty-four; and instead of being too happy that she should grant me all that she did, I wanted to have her all to myself, and to make her sever at one stroke all her past relations which were the revenue of her future.
Armand is not only possessive and jealous he is also a terrible asshole. Just when you think he’s okay, they’re going to be happy together, he gets consumed by his jealousy and does this:
I said to myself that the woman was laughing at me; I saw her alone with the count, saying over to him the same words that she had said to me in the night, and taking a five-hundred-franc note I sent it to her with these words:
“You went away so suddenly that I forgot to pay you. Here is the price of your night.”
He sends this to the woman he supposedly loves more than anyone else in the world, the woman with which he’s spend days and days in blissfull happiness, who gave up so much for him.
In the end, Marguerite dies, all alone. This tragic end hangs over the book from the beginning but reading it, I fell so much for Margerite that I kept hoping she would be happy after all.
A fascinating heroine at the center of a tragic story.