La Parure (The Necklace) par Guy de Maupassant

“C’etait une de ces jolies et charmantes filles, nées, comme par une erreur du destin, dans une famille d’employés.”

Yes, she certainly was a pretty and charming girl who was born by a mistake of destiny into a family of office workers.  Mathilde would dream of riches and fame and jewels, covering her life of drudgery in a tapestry of fantasies and longings.  Finally, one day, her husband arrives with an invitation to a party.  Mathilde manipulates this honest, hard-working man into purchasing a new elegant dress for her, but when she complains of a lack of jewels, he has the answer: borrow some from her wealthy friend Madame Forestier!  A lovely diamond necklace of Madame’s catches Mathilde’s eye and she must have it.  Her friend, generous to the end, gladly loans it and the evening of her dreams begins.  She is admired, she is catered to, she is wrapped in a heavenly realm of blissful wealth and prestige.  Late do she and her husband return home, reluctant to leave the party until the end but, oh no!  The necklace has disappeared and she is sure that she left it in the taxi.  Days of searching yield nothing and finally there is only one thing to do.  Withdrawing their life savings and taking out a loan, they replace the necklace, hoping that Madame will not notice.  But this painful action causes them ten years of needless toil and suffering.  Why is it needless?  Well, you will have to read the tale to find out!

This short story was really a gem and, in spite of having an inkling of the final twist, it still held my attention to end.  In fact, I had expected to get fatigued by reading such a long (for me) story in French and I had planned to take a break, but instead, I was held rapt until the end.

I did wonder at the title of this story.  In the tale, the necklace is mostly referred to as “la rivière“, yet the title is “la parure“.  When I looked up “la rivière” in my French dictionary it says “river“, and “la parure“means “finery” or “jewelry“.  So then I looked up necklace and it had “le collier“.  What?  Do any of you Francophiles understand the distinction between these terms? Help!

In any case, this story has definitely been a huge incentive to read more of Maupassant.  His short stories are very readable and a good way to keep improving my French.  I certainly struggled here and there in parts of it and learned a number of new words, yet I was also pleased with my progress.

This will probably be the last book for my Summer Freak Language Challenge, unless I can squeak in a short children’s book before the end. Thanks Ekaterina, for holding this wonderful challenge.  It’s given me a chance to practice languages that I wouldn’t normally read in.  I’m already looking forward to next year’s challenge!

11 thoughts on “La Parure (The Necklace) par Guy de Maupassant

  1. Chapeau! I'm still ploughing my way through Bel-Ami. Always with a big dictionary at my side. Maybe I'll try some short stories of Maupassant next. I really enjoy his writing style. I would guess, parure is a more general term for every kind of jewelry (Schmuckstück in German) and collier specifically means a necklace. My dict. says rivière is also a word for necklace (rivière de diamants).

  2. Your review makes me want to pick some Maupassant short stories! But not in French, of course 🙂
    Congrats on accomplishing so much for the challenge! You rocked it! 🙂 I'm glad it was helpful and motivating 🙂

  3. thanks. when I was a teen, the one by Maupassant we all had to read was Le Horla. have you read it? quite interesting

  4. Thanks for the explanation, Sandra, that makes sense. I have Bel-Ami on my TBR list. But I'll be reading it in English. I'd like to attempt it in French, but I can't have my poor little brain explode.

  5. I do have Le Horla in my collection. It's quite a bit longer than La Parure but since La Parure didn't take me as long to read as I thought it would, I will give Le Horla a try. I'm still in a de Maupassant-mood, so it should be a fun read.

  6. Just wanted to say how wonderful it is that you are improving on your French skills. I know, believe me, I know it is time consuming and hard work. The exhiliration after finishing a book in French is worth all the time and effort, isn't it?

  7. Yes, I have been inspired by doing it! 🙂 I was so engrossed in this story, I was surprised how fast I read it.

    You have my permission to bug me to read more books in French. When I do it, I can see the benefits!

  8. Oh I loved The Necklace! It was in my English textbook a few years ago (in English, obviously), and though we didn't read it for class, I tended to read those textbooks cover to cover anyway.

    The Necklace and Bel-Ami are the only two of Maupassant's works that I've read, and in that order. Sadly, I really didn't like Bel-Ami – the writing was beautiful, of course, as were the characterizations, but the ending really disappointed me. Oh well.
    Are you going to read Bel-Ami? I'd be very interested to see what you think of it!

  9. I do have Bel-Ami on my Classics Club list and am looking forward to it since reading The Necklace. I'm going to read some more of Maupassant's short stories first to try to get a feel for his writing, and since I'm able to devote the time to read those in French, it's fun to compare them with the translation. However, I don't think I'll be reading Bel-Ami in French, more's the pity!

    Did you write a review of Bel-Ami? If so, I'm tempted to look at it but I'll wait until I've read it first.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!