"He bombastically takes every entanglement as tragic, every urge as a great passion; he is always ready to declare every person in misfortune a hero or a saint; if it is a woman he compares her to an angel or the Madonna....it was in conformity with his emotional, fiery, and uncritical temperment, as well as with the romantic way of life, to sense demonic forces everywhere and to exaggerate to the point of melodrama" from Mimesis by Eric Auerbach
"La Grenadiere", translated by Ellen Marriage, is set in Tours,near where Balzac was born, on a small paradise like estate in the midst of a vineyard. The first ten pages of the thirty pages or is devoted to a description of the estate, the small house, and the countryside. The owners rent it out,often to affluent English seeking a long get away. It is now rented to a French woman and her two young sons. She fits the sterotype of the Madonna like heroine. One of the characteristics of the 19th century novel, far from just Balzac, is that beautiful women are good, the ugly evil. When a beautiful woman is out of this mold her beauty only magnifies her evil. Her sons are little cherubs from Heaven and her life is totally devoted to them. There is a hidden sadness sometimes glimpsed briefly in her eyes, linked to the father of the boys. Some very tragic happens, designed to wring tears out of the most cynical Parisian.
This story perfectly fits Auerbach's account of the weaker work of Balzac, see my last post for more details.