A
Literary Saloon
&
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.



Contents:
Main
the Best
the Rest
Review Index
Links

weblog

crQ

RSS

to e-mail us:


support the site



In Association with Amazon.com


In association with Amazon.com - UK


In association with Amazon.ca - Canada


the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction



Chasing the Dream

by
Liane de Pougy


general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Chasing the Dream



Title: Chasing the Dream
Author: Liane de Pougy
Genre: Novel
Written: 1898 (Eng. 2021)
Length: 172 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Chasing the Dream - US
Chasing the Dream - UK
Chasing the Dream - Canada
L'insaisissable - Canada
L'insaisissable - France
directly from: Dedalus
  • French title: L'insaisissable
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Graham Anderson

- Return to top of the page -



Our Assessment:

B : frothy entertainment; nice little twist on the typical love-novel

See our review for fuller assessment.




The complete review's Review:

       The dream chased by the protagonist of Liane de Pougy's novel, Josiane de Valneige, is that of love. Not to be loved -- that she considers: "hardly an accomplishment, it's nothing at all to be proud of; it happens to the plainest of women", but to love someone else: "to love is everything". Marriage at a young age was a disappointment; it didn't take long before it was clear it was: "a bourgeois existence too burdensome for an impatient twenty-year-old to bear". Young Mme Aubertin fled -- into the arms of another man -- and began what would be a lengthy quest.
       Chasing the Dream opens with this man who: "had taken her in adultery and kindled its full flowering", Jean Leblois, coming to visit Josiane, years after they had parted ways and last seen one another. Josiane remains grateful to the man who first showed her what true passion was like and opened new worlds for her, but a lot has happened in the meantime. She wants to open up to him, but can't quite bring herself to do it in person -- "I have too much to say, I have seen so much ... and one has one's modesty" -- and so instead of simply recounting what she has experienced since she parted ways with Jean she proposes to lay it all out for him in letters. The bulk of Chasing the Dream is then an epistolary novel, Josiane sharing her story with Jean in a series of letters, with the occasional reply from Jean along the way.
       Josiane's passionate affair with the young Jean gave her a glimpse of what life could be. He took her to Paris, a vibrant, exciting world so different from the sleepy rural one she had known; when Jean abandoned her, she resolved not to return to her stifling marriage. She was able to parlay luck, some support from Jean's uncle, and her obvious allure into a future that served her well, as the mistress of many.
       Always well-provided for, she amassed considerable wealth. She describes for Jean various stations along her way; most of the men: "were passers-by, and nothing is left of them but small trinkets", but she also had some more serious affairs. Josiane goes through quite a series of men in her account, their various professions and positions in society making for an entertaining skim through Parisian high(er) society. There's some passion each time, but ultimately, for both the men and for Josiane, they are flings: a good time is had by all, and there generally aren't even too hard feelings when things are broken off, but that's all there is to it.
       The bewitching Josiane can apparently wrap any man around her finger; so even, for example, amusingly when she seeks medical advice:

     Tardenot is very well known, he specialises in our fin de siècle ailments. The best way he could think of to cure me of what he called, by a horrible name incidentally: neurasthenia -- yes, imagine that, I was a neurasthenic ! -- was for me to take him as my lover.
       But as the years go by she finds herself still dissatisfied -- or, in fact, ever more so, the love she seeks continuing to elude her. She sees herself as: "the Tantalus of the human heart !"
       Withdrawing from Paris, she does find what she is looking for -- "I am in love ! I love, I love !!!", she can finally proclaim -- but, of course, it doesn't prove quite that simple. The young man in question, Paul Duvert, is of "delicate health" (and, living with his widowed mother, "a little too much tied to his mother's apron strings") -- but: "with his frank yet mysterious gaze, his poet's brow, his guileless heart" is the first man Josiane is truly swept away by, the first man she can simply love. He is similarly taken by her -- but complications arise, not least in the appearance of one of the men from her past. Josiane's insouciant "What woman doesn't have a little history of her own ?" hides that she has a lot of history, of the sort that would deeply trouble Paul; she chooses to give him only the slightest glimpse of the truth and lie about the rest, but the seeds of doubt are planted .....
       Josiane loves Paul, and he loves her, but can their love flower together ? Josiane truly loves -- but that, here, also requires her to make what amounts to the greatest sacrifice, a vicious circle from which there is no happy escape.
       Even in its final, very melodramatic turn Chasing the Dream remains an agreeably light novel. Josiane is an unusual romantic heroine. De Pougy doesn't wallow in any would-be sordidness of her many affairs, or sensationalize them; it's all very casual and natural, with Josiane finding the details hardly worth a mention. Her romantic hopes for love, and the difficulties she has even coming close to it, give the story some drive -- the novel is, ultimately, a straightforward romantic-quest-tale -- but even though her longing is presented somewhat over the top, it doesn't come across as too absurd or ridiculous (as such longing-for-love easily can in a romance novel). It helps that Josiane isn't seeking approval -- she doesn't need to be loved, as so many romantic heroines desperately do, but rather wants to find what satisfies her -- as does the fact that Josiane doesn't let her idealized-love-wish get in the way of her having a good time along the way.
       That she enjoys a life of easy comfort, without ever really having material concerns -- she professes to be indifferent to money, but is also extraordinarily fortunate in never having to worry about it --, whether as a mistress or then withdrawing on her own, also makes for one less thing for her to worry about: the stock issue of women being financially dependent on men (and acting accordingly), so common to stories of that (and many other) times, is pushed aside here. Yes, Josiane's wealth comes from her relationships with men -- but she treats that almost as if it is incidental, certain that she would have managed no less well regardless. If the whole scenario is very unlikely, de Pougy nevertheless conveys Josiane's attitude convincingly; much of the success of the character (and the story) comes from that.
       Chasing the Dream is a light piece of entertainment, but it is cleverly done. Managing to indulge in the most typical romance-tropes but also upending many of the expectations one has from this kind of story, de Pougy shows a fine touch in this, her first novel. If many of the pieces are familiar, de Pougy nevertheless crafts a work that is more than just a run-of-the-mill period-curiosity.

- M.A.Orthofer, 2 May 2021

- Return to top of the page -



Links:

Chasing the Dream: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -



About the Author:

       French author Liane de Pougy (born Anne-Marie Chassaigne) lived 1869 to 1950.

- Return to top of the page -


© 2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links