Belle de Jour by Joseph Kessel

Belle de Jour (Beauty of the Day) was published in French in 1928, but was not released in English until decades later due to its sadomasochistic theme.  Severine is a beautiful young housewife, married to the handsome young surgeon, Pierre, and seemingly living a dream life amongst the wealthy citizens of Paris.  The problem is that although she loves Pierre, she feels no real passion for him and his gentle lovemaking.  Something inside her drives her to search out a brothel in a seedy side of town and become “Belle de Jour” by day, submitting to the rough and dangerous men who frequent the establishment, then returning home to her loving but oblivious husband in the evening.  Her double life leads to a tragedy along the lines of that in Ethan Fromme.  A bit slow in the beginning, Belle de Jour builds to an inevitable climax (no pun intended …. well maybe just a little!).  Recommended.

My Rating: 

2 thoughts on “Belle de Jour by Joseph Kessel

  1. hehehehe . . . oh, you naughty Booklove . . .

    All puns aside, I really enjoyed this novel, and I find it very interesting that Belle de Jour was written by a man, because the entire novel is done from Belle’s point of view. While the sadomasochistic theme is very tame by twenty-first century standards (The Story of O this is not), Kessel does explore another very sublime theme in this book with the Madonna/Magdalene protagonist. Belle vacillates between being the sainted wife, then sensual prostitute seeking redemption giving a real clear picture of society’s own muddled expectations of women in the early twentieth century. A really excellent read, even if this type of novel isn’t your normal fetish – okay, I’m punning away now . . . hehehehe

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