Henri’s Dangerous Liaison

Yes it was perhaps dangerous setting out to devour this novel, devoured by so many film makers before me.  You may know this story better as Dangerous Liaison’s Starring John Malkovich and Glenn Close, or the teen movie adaptation, Cruel Intentions, or less likely, as Valmont starring a young Colin Firth (yes ladies he does get his shirt wet… I know that’s what you were going to ask but I do not appreciate such filth in my comments).  But devour it I did.  Partly just because I happened to find a particularly beautiful edition whilst in a lovely bookstore in Launceston called MW Stevenson- Bookseller, Secondhand and Antiquarian Books.  If you ever go there it’s worth a visit, I was like a child in a candy store (coincidentally it’s right near a candy store).

Drawn to the luminous silk binding and the beautiful illustrations throughout I bit into the lavish pages, enjoying every nibble. Les Liaisons Dangereuses is like a richly layered cake.  Told in the form of letters the story jumps between the different flavours of each character, the biting wit of Marquise de Merteuil, the sickly sweetness of Cecile Volanges, the cleansing purity of Madame de Tourvel.  At first I was excited, drawn forward by the intrigue, all those different flavours wooing, fighting and betting against each other.  But then it all became too rich, like an incredibly delicious cake that you suddenly realise you are never going to finish, I began to slow down, take smaller bites, and then the end was in sight.  I took the last bite and collapsed, feeling queasy and pretty sure I should have given up while I was ahead.

It is certainly a story that captures the imagination, highlights the horrible things that humans are capable of, and challenges the upper classes.  By telling the story via the correspondence of the characters you end up hearing each event from every perspective, a technique that works well in the beginning but grows tired by the end.  It’s a shame because the flavour was there but there was just too much, the piece was too large, there was too much cream and not enough substance. And now I am left with just the crumbs of my beautiful book, some cakes look better than they taste.


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