‘Pot-Bouille’ entertains me in its own way, differs from previous books that capture my heart right after their first sentences.

The first pages of the title are okay. The description of Octave arriving in Paris is nice to read but not as charming as those written by classic authors. I keep reading anyway because my mind immediately races through against the time machine, drifting back hundreds of years ago in a classic, beautiful city namely Paris. I have never been to Paris but people say the city is the one of its kind on earth.

The following pages require me to put more focus because I come to one of the most disliked things reading a book: a lot of characters. I actually hate books that present numerous number of people in it because I can hardly remember their names.

I keep reading it nonetheless. The many names in the novel does lessen the joy in reading but I keep going. Thankfully, I always remember this recipe when it comes reading books containing many characters: just keep your eyes on the protagonist!

So I apply this self-strategy and it proves me correct. At least I still read it until now.

After, say, 20 pages I eventually come to the point what makes this book is wonderful and universally-loved in literature. It is the book of the people. The people that make the story feels so real then causes me to laugh and cry. A mixed feeling that is more than enough to keep me going.

I invite you to meet this family, the scene where I get totally enjoy reading the book.

The family of Monsieur Josserand is such a joke and irony at the same time. It is a disastrous marriage as Monsieur Josserand has no control over his family. His wife, Madame Josserand, decides what needs to do to keep the family boat remains afloat.

And it is through a marriage.. with rich, super wealthy gentlemen. To do so, Monsieur Josserand ‘train’ their daughters; Hortense and Berthe, to ‘sell’ themselves via parties. The mother sometimes arranges parties attended by rich people so that the gentlemen can see the girls’ skills and beauties. For Madame Josserand, her goal is how making her daughters marrying off gentlemen.

Monsieur Josserand knows about this very much but he is helpless. He and his wife often argues about her intention of marrying their daughters off based on money and the result is always the same: the wife is leading the score.

The powerlessness of the breadwinner is funny, real yet ironical.

Then, I am introduced to the family of Monsieur and Madame Vuillaume, another peculiar family portrait. The pair welcomes their sole daughter, Marie, very late in their life. Monsieur Vuillaume retires and the spouse no longer expects having a baby. But Marie is born. Instead of feeling overly happy with her birth, the wife can’t sometimes bear the high cost raising her only kid.

Marie is taught very strictly. Even she is not allowed to read novels before she is mature enough to read it. Her own mother says women who know too much is dangerous. I feel like, wow!

Do women in the era suffer that much? That they are mere commodities?

I am only on the page of 76 out of 379, so it’s very long way to go. Despite the flat story telling style, I like the book because it conveys stories of human lives, very simple, close to daily looks. The novel brings up what it means of being normal humans. It makes me feeling happy, angry, sad.. Guess thus far, the novel does a good job.

 

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