Balzac’s universally loved novel explores the great theme of money and its effect on the human character. Old Goriot is a lodger at Madame Vauquer’s Parisian boarding house. At first, his wealth inspires respect, but as his circumstances are reduced, he is gradually shunned. He moves into smaller and less desirable rooms in the house, and soon his only remaining visitors are two beautiful young women. The mystery as to who they are and what is happening to Goriot’s fortune involves several other boarders, including Rastignac, an ambitious youth who hopes to rise in society.
With its complicities and alliances, mysteries and betrayals, passions and ambitions, the house becomes a microcosm of the grasping Parisian society of the 1820s - a perfect setting for Balzac’s masterful portrayal of La Comédie humaine, the whole comedic parade of human life.
HONORÉ DE BALZAC (1799–1850), was born in Tours, France, educated at the Collège de Vendôme, and studied law at the Sorbonne. His father wished him to become a lawyer, but he left Tours in 1819 to seek his fortune as an author in Paris. He wrote eighty-five novels in twenty years, but his life was one of frequent privation. In 1850, he married Madame Hanska, a rich Polish lady with whom he had corresponded for more than fifteen years but had only just met in person. Five months later, Balzac died in Paris.