François Mauriac: La Pharisienne (A Woman of the Pharisees)


The latest addition to my website is ‘s La Pharisienne (A Woman of the Pharisees), the last of Mauriac’s great novels. This tells the story of Brigitte Pian, through the eyes of her stepson, Louis Pian, a woman who believes that she knows what God wants from people and it is her duty to tell them. Most of the novel concerns a period when Louis is a teenager, well-behaved and good at school, but looking back from very late in life. One of his schoolfriends, a badly-behaved, lazy, slovenly boy called Jean de Mirbel, comes to spend the summer under the care of a priest who specialises in training badly-behaved boys, near to the Pian family home. To Louis’ horror, Jean and his beloved sister Michèle, instead of playing with him, would rather play with each other. As both are two years older than Louis, their games do not meet with the approval of Brigitte. When Jean finds that his widowed mother is also misbehaving, things get much worse. Brigitte, however, is always there to offer her spiritual guidance and comfort to the afflicted. The portrait of Brigitte is a superb work by Mauriac, as she is not wholly bad. Indeed, she has a good heart and often reproaches herself with being too harsh with the tormented souls she thinks that she is helping. Mauriac shows all sides of her character, through Louis’ eyes. It will be Mauriac’s last great creation. Fortunately, not only has the book been translated into English but is in print in both the UK and USA.

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  1. Mike Crowl

    I read this book years ago, when I was a young man, and was immensely struck by it. It’s certainly one of Mauriac’s best books, though it’s quite gloomy in its outcomes and somewhat pessimistic. Still that was fairly typical of Mauriac, as I recall – all the books of his that I read, I read a very long time ago now!

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