So here we are at the readers’ group discussing Bel Ami. But there’s only two of us and one of us hasn’t read it. Not a good start!
It’s Paris in the 1890’s and Georges Duroy, known to his friends as ‘Bel-Ami’ has recently left the Calvalry — a description of some actions there hints that he’s not a terribly nice bloke. But he’s young, ambitious …attractive and definitely a social climber. He wangles a job as a journalist (he ends as chief editor) and proceeds to go from one woman to another, getting married along the way and in keeping with the time, enriching himself from the money that his wife inherits. He discovers that she is having an affair and manages to divorce her, his eyes ever on the richer prize
Other ladies are only too keen to ‘help him out’ financially and he is not averse to bewitching a string of beautiful women to become upwardly mobile. Without giving away too much of the story, obsession is the word to use for the feelings his boss’s wife has for him.
The book is frustrating in the way that for all his very questionable behaviour, there is no come-uppance for Georges (compare that to Lily Bart in The House of Mirth published in 1905 where Lily is punished unremittingly for her indiscretions)
The latest film version starred Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman,Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci and Holliday Grainger