Probably going to catch some grief for this one.
Overview: Monsieur Franval is a sexual deviant who continues his deviances after marriage, neglecting his wife. On one of the few occasions he has relations with Madam Franval, she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a daughter named Eugenie. Monsieur quickly whisks his daughter off to another city and keeps her sequestered with a nurse, tutors and three other little girls during her childhood. Keeping all thoughts of religion and politics involving society-determined sexual morals as far from her as possible, but he made sure to visit every night and have little chats with her in the evenings. On her fifteenth birthday, Monsieur Franval discusses his unhappy marriage, how poorly his wife meets his needs as a portal of every marriage. He then proceeds to talk his daughter into professing her love for him and becoming his lover. Making sure to word everything just right so it comes out as her idea. During the affair, which lasts about two years, Madam Franval begins to suspect what is going on and discusses her fears with her mother, Madame Farneille. Madame Farneille invites Eugenie over to her house for an afternoon and without saying anything, comes to the same conclusion as her daughter; Monsieur Franval is having carnal relations with his own daughter. The two ladies try to talk with both parties about calling off the affair but get nowhere. Every suitor is turned away by both Eugenie and Monsiuer Franval. Having enough Madame Farneille contacts Monsieur Clervil, a local priest in hopes that he will have better luck reaching her son-in-law. Abhorring religion, and using the Bible against the priest, Franval becomes enraged and conspires with Eugenie to create a fake affair between Madam Franval, and Monsiuer Franval’s friend Valmont. When asked to seduce the wife, Valmont consents but tells the wife everything and forces him to leave the house. Lies get deeper as Monsieur Franval has love letters created, and bank notes made in Madam’s name to Valmont for outrageous amounts. He confronts his wife with the false evidence and she begs him not to believe the letters because they are fakes. Not listening to her he walks out to be with his lover, while his wife conspires with her mother and Valmont to have the girl abducted and married off to Valmont. Monsieur Franval takes Eugenie out to a play, where she is kidnapped by Valmont and he pursues on horseback. Once he catches up with them outside of town, Franval shoots Valmont and takes his daughter back to their home. He begs his wife forgiveness and promises to break off the affair if she will run away with them to the edge of the Black Forest. She agrees and they run out of town. They played house, happily in the wife’s eyes, for a few weeks before learning Farneille has told the police and Valmont’s family of the murder. Monsieur instructs his wife and daughter to stay at Valmor while he leaves the country until it is safe for his return. He secretly instructs his obedient daughter to kill his wife if she tries to leave before he returns. Through letters he is updated by his wife and daughter for two months on what is going on with his case, but soon letters stop coming. He waits a month and then heads to Valmor fearing the worst. On his way he is robbed and stripped of his clothes. Continuing on foot, he is met by Clervil, whom he had previously kidnapped, who told him the courts had found him guilty of highway murder, his daughter poisoned her own mother for wanting to return to Paris and the daughter than died from remorse. The two men took shelter for the night in a church, which unknowingly held Monsieur Franval’s wife. He fell begging her forgiveness and then stabbed himself in the chest twice.
Opinion: Deep down I think that this was every woman’s fear. Their daughter, a younger and prettier version of themselves, will steal their husband’s (or boyfriend’s) affections from them. I don’t necessarily mean romantic affections either, wives could fear the husband will spend more time with the daughter or show her more attention and forget about the wife. Of course women won’t admit it, or even realize this is how they feel because we live in a society where we are told genetic attraction is wrong and punishable by law in some areas. So they feel a sense of security.
In the book, it is discussed that some cultures Incest happens on some level, it is expected and accepted. It happens enough among humans there is even a name for it, Genetic Sexual Attraction. To a small degree, GSA is in all of us bred from nurture. The old adage of a girl looks to her father for qualities in her future husband, and boys look to their mothers for qualities they want in a future bride. I have even seen a commercial where a father takes his 4or 5 year old daughter on a date to show her what to expect of men when she is allowed to date.
The author even uses the story of Lot from the Bible as a justification for his actions. Personally I cannot speak about that story as I have not read it, but the author uses the excuse of “if it is all right with the lord why is it not right for me” spiel that a lot of people like using for their own means. I find this ironic because he is against religion and the Bible in general, so why would he use this as a right to have sex with his daughter? Aside form being stupid, it is quite genius because the character knows it is the only way they will understand, as well as point out the hypocritical use of the Bible. Religious people are always picking and choosing certain passages of the Bible to use as it fits their situation because they readily admit the parts they don’t use are archaic in design.
While some men are of the mind that it is a father’s duty to prepare their daughter’s for life and sex, in this case I believe Franval went around it wrong. He kept Eugenie locked away from the world and other men, to keep her away from any other choice but him. It would have been different if she were around other people and had a chance to fall for someone else. Then Franval could have instructed her (be it verbally or physically, truer to De Sade’s writing) on how to please a man of her choosing. It would be no less shocking than how things actually pan out in the book.
Another theme in this book is that married couples are unhappy. Of course this is from a somewhat depressing time period, but I still like to think if they were so unhappy they could have divorced, but with the wife worshipping the ground he walked on that wouldn’t have happened.
Overall I’m not sure how I feel about the book. Which is why it only rates 3/5.
Recommend: if you have an open mind and not going to criticize it at every turn, then yes.