The only other work I have read of Maupassant is his short story The Necklace and I was instantly impressed by it. Thus, I bought A Woman's Life with high expectations and well, was left disappointed. What I would say about this novel is that A Woman's Life turned out to be a negative version of Jane Austen's portrayal of society in her novels. And not in a good way, really.
The world of Jeane is compacted to her home after her life in the convent. She is not much social and dreams of being in true love one day. She eventually marries and have some of the best and the worst experiences. But despite those experiences, she doesn't grow as a person or as a character so much that I wanted to shake her from her oblivion. I have never read a book with a more frustrating character as Jeane was in terms of her personality. Endurance, much? I don't think so.After her marriage to Julien and all that came with it, she should have had the courage to leave him after finding out about the affair with her maid, Rosalie. The response of her father was downright shameful when it came to the observations of the priest about the whole situation. Yes, the reaction maybe fit for a 19th century extramarital affair and an illegitimate son but God, the whole thing was dealt with disgustingly. And to think that the Baron, as Jeane's father was the mellower of the characters. I was frustrated a great deal and even more so when there was another affair.
Julien didn't have the audacity to stop having them and had the vulgarity of a man bent on having those affairs and treating Rosalie the way he did. He truly deserved the ending he received. Even Paul, for that matter. But that is yet another frustrating character to get into. As Jeane is just too naive to think otherwise of her detached husband and a manipulating son.
Yes, there were moments when she flashed fire and seemed strong enough to take on the world. But those were in a dwindling amount and so in the end, amounted to almost nothing. On some level, I can understand why she acted the way she did but I just think it was exaggerated. She craved affection a great deal; but at what price because there seems to be no limit placed on it. Or a limit that Jeane could be aware of.
Suffice it to say that A Woman's Life didn't have the factor to make it beautiful to a reader. As apart from Jeane, the characters of the Baron and the Baroness, Julien and Paul turned out to be mere egg shells detached from the actual substance. Maybe short stories are better suited to Maupassant after all.