Title: Country Living (also known as The Adopted Son)
Date Read: 15th February 2010
Available Online?: YES (although read for this review was the David Coward translation of the story in A Day in the Country and Other Stories (Oxford University Press)).
Briefly: Two peasant families – Vallins and the Tuvaches – live on the edge of a spa town in adjoining cottages. Both families have a number of children and everyone gets along well together. One day however a lady and her husband happen by the cottages and begin befriending both families and their children. Over time a relationship builds until the point when the lady puts forward a proposal of adoption to the families. They promise a hefty pension to the family who agrees to the adoption plans, and a bright future for the son who is adopted.
Afterthoughts: This story is fantastic; Maupassant at his absolute best. Not only does he raise a moral dilemma which most parents would find abhorrent (although some may consider it a good idea), but the story is so well constructed, so finely round off that this has to stand as a model for how short stories should be written. I’m not scoring it a perfect 5 because there isn’t a great deal of depth to the story (in all fairness it is rather short), but it definitely ranks as one the best Maupassant tales I’ve read so far.
Notable Quote: “My wife has not made her meaning clear. We wish to adopt him, but he will come back to see you. If he turns out well, as there is every reason to expect, he will be our heir. If we, perchance, should have children, he will share equally with them; but if he should not reward our care, we should give him, when he comes of age, a sum of twenty thousand francs, which shall be deposited immediately in his name, with a lawyer. As we have thought also of you, we should pay you, until your death, a pension of one hundred francs a month. Do you understand me?”
*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.