Devouring De Maupassant: Miss Harriet

Title: Miss Harriet
Date Read: 19th September 2011
Available Online?: YES
Briefly: While on a coach trip from Etretat to the ruins of Tancarville, the old painter Leon Chenal is asked to tell a love story of which he’s played a part in. He obliges, stating that the story he is about to tell is not a happy one, but rather relating to one of the ‘saddest love affairs of his life.’
Afterthoughts: This rather lengthy tale from Maupassant is beautiful, and for a couple of reasons. Firstly, strongly impressionistic and invoking a sense of ‘being there’, Maupassant’s descriptions of the countryside and of nature are sublime (see notable quote below). Readers of Maupassant will know fine well how deft this writer is at describing scene, but in this story more than any other he takes it to another level (an almost heavenly one). Secondly, the storyline itself, which although quite rambling at times is cutting and wholly memorable. As Chenal says this a story about a sad love affair, and ultimately it is sad, so expect to leave this one feeling somewhat deflated. Don’t let that put you off though because Miss Harriet makes for unmissable reading, and for all the right reasons.
Notable Quote: You sit down by the side of a spring which gushes out at the foot of an oak, amid a growth of tall, slender weeds, glistening with life. You go down on your knees, bend forward and drink that cold, pellucid water which wets your mustache and nose; you drink it with a physical pleasure, as though you kissed the spring, lip to lip. Sometimes, when you find a deep hole along the course of these tiny brooks, you plunge in quite naked, and you feel on your skin, from head to foot, as it were, an icy and delicious caress, the light and gentle quivering of the stream.

Rating: ★★★★☆

*Story read as part of my Devouring De Maupassant reading challenge.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).