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MyFrenchLife™ French Book Club: Stendhal, Le Rouge et Le Noir – June 2018

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org – MyFrenchLife™ book club: June literature challenge – Stendhal, Le Rouge et Le Noir

Calling all Francophiles, lovers of literature, and savvy challenge seekers. Have you ever dreamt of joining a French book club? Well, now’s your chance… Welcome to the MyFrenchLife™ 12-month French Literature Challenge 2018! 

Every month this year, we challenge you to sit back, relax, and delve into one of our specially chosen French books! In June, we’re reading Stendhal.

Why take part in the MyFrenchLife™ book club?

Each month, we’ll be consulting our French literature experts to bring you a new and exciting French book review. We promise to dig deep and share our most intimate opinions, interpretations, and perceptions of France’s best literary offerings – and we’d love you to do the same!MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org – MyFrenchLife™ book club: May literature challenge – Gustave Flaubert, Salammbô

Perhaps you can’t resist a challenge.

Maybe you’re still looking for that perfect New Year’s resolution.

Whatever your reason, we challenge you to join us in our 2018 literary crusade – every opinion matters, especially yours.

This June, we’re continuing the challenge with a tale of crime and passion – Stendhal’s ‘Le Rouge et Le Noir

So, let’s all pick up our books and let the reading commence! Join our online book club, join the reading, join the fun – and have your voice heard.

Stendhal’s ‘Le Rouge et Le Noir
Buy here: en français or in English et en français

Stendhal explained: part 1

Le Rouge et Le Noir is the story of passion, ambition, and very powerful women.

Stendhal’s story captures Julien Sorel’s attempts to rise from his provincial background (he’s a poor carpenter’s son) to be amongst the socially elite.

The protagonist’s ambitious nature and intelligence allow him to become assistant to the Catholic prelate Abbé Chélan, who finds him a position tutoring the children of Monsieur et Madame de Rênal.

However, Julien has more on his mind than simply religious studies.

His passions lead him to a love affair with Madame de Rênal. Once the village discovers the affair, Julien realises he needs to flee. He escapes to Paris, leading the reader into part two.

Stendhal explained: part 2

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org – MyFrenchLife™ book club: May literature challenge – Gustave Flaubert, SalammbôPart two of Stendhal’s novel begins with Julien’s new job as an employee of the de La Mole family. However, despite his intelligence, Julien is considered a mere servant.

Yet, it’s Mathilde de la Mole, the Marquis de La Mole’s daughter, who becomes attracted to Julien and his intelligence.

She finds herself torn between wanting to begin a love affair with him whilst remaining a woman in control of her own life and destiny.

After seducing and rejecting Julien on several occasions, Mathilde begins her romantic affair with Julien.

In fear of losing his daughter and her social status, the Marquis provides Julien with an aristocratic title and position in the army.

However, this suddenly comes crashing down upon receipt of a letter from Madame de Rênal…

Passion & evil: an unexpected twist

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org – MyFrenchLife™ book club: May literature challenge – Gustave Flaubert, SalammbôThe letter is addressed to the Marquis de La Mole, exposing Julien’s previous love affair with Madame de Rênal.

Julien’s rage – another reason for ‘Le Rouge in the title – causes him to see red. He finds Madame de Rênal in her church and shoots her in front of the village.

* Sorry for the spoiler! *

This scene surprised me the most about the novel: it was simply so unexpected.

Perhaps it symbolises the coming together of the passion and blood of Le Rouge and the evil darkness of Le Noir.

Julien is then imprisoned and sentenced to death. A punishment he appears to welcome with open arms; he does not wish to live in the hypocrisy of nineteenth-century France.

French feminism: the power of women

MyFrenchLife™ – MyFrenchLife.org – MyFrenchLife™ book club: May literature challenge – Gustave Flaubert, SalammbôStendhal’s novel is definitely a personal favourite of mine.

It is not only gripping, full of action, passion, manipulation, and anger, but it also conveys the power of women:

  • Madame de Rênal is the traditional nineteenth-century passive and modest woman. Yet, she clearly manipulates this role to truly get what she wants
  • Mathilde de La Mole is also an incredible character who says exactly what she thinks, disgracing men with her wit and her intelligence
  • It is arguably these women who have the control in Stendhal’s novel – not Julien

They shape the plot and distract Julien’s goals with passion, jealousy, and even hatred. What did you think about these characters?

Le Rouge et Le Noir is the gripping page-turner you have been looking for in a French novel.

Begin this book and say goodbye to Netflix, Facebook, and Twitter – you will only have time for the fate of Julien Sorel.


Now it’s your turn – get involved here.
Let the challenge begin!

Here you will find full details of our 2018 French literature challenge and READING LIST

In true book club fashion, we’re eager to get together – if only virtually – and compare literary notes. Don’t forget to leave your reviews in the comments box and let us know what you thought.


What are your thoughts on Stendhal’s novel? Who were your favourite characters? We’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in the comments box below – here’s where you GET INVOLVED.


Image credits
1. Stendhal, via Wikipedia
2. © Jessica Rushton
3. Le Rouge et le Noir, via Wikipedia


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