La Grand Therese (Hilary Spurling) – Review

La Grande Therese : The Greatest Scandal of…La Grand Therese by Hilary Spurling
Age: Adult
Genre: History/Biography
Publisher: Profile Books, 1999
ISBN: 186197132X
119 pages

The author of a number of French history books brings us a neatly packaged tale of one of the greatest liars and swindlers of the Belle Époque era, Therese Humbert. A girl of poor means from southern France, Therese quickly developed a talent for creative lies and story-telling that elevated her family’s status among the eyes of their community. Wracking up a number of unpaid debts, Therese and her family eventually found their way to Paris. Through Therese’s ability to craft lies, charm vendors and blend in casually to any group, her family had the honor of hosting parties for a number of political and literary dignitaries, even associated with artist Henri Matisse through marriage. However, the well woven web of lies and deceit soon begins to unravel and Therese finds herself penniless and alone in jail. Her dream castles shattered into a million pieces.

I was drawn to this book for its size as well as its main feature, Therese Humber. The book is about 119 pages and roughly 4×6 in size. Its a small book, a quick expose of Therese’s life. There isn’t much meat in the book, and I’m sure much of it was left to the author’s imagination as the bibliography sources were quite limited and there were few if any citations in the actual book. Although Therese’s life seems to be incredibly interesting, her story was not told well. I found the narrative difficult to follow at times and I still can’t figure out how her lies almost destroyed the French Third Republic. The narrative felt more like a draft or outline of what could be a really interesting and detailed account of a rags-to-riches-to-rags Cinderella story.

This book is not available in the United States

Book 45 of 2011

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