Book Review: LA GRANDE THÉRÈSE: The Greatest Scandal of the Century

La Grande Thérèse: The Greatest Scandal of the Century
by Hilary Spurling

Check out for the synopsis. My book reviews are a bit more about saying I’ve read the book and here’s what I think of it than about making any sort of recommendation.

First, I thought it was written in French, with those characters in the title that I can’t type on my laptop unless I turn to — useful site, by the way. Eventually, I learned that it’s in English but about someone who almost caused the downfall of the French Republic. It would have been a real fairytale had greed and avarice not come into focus but, of course, if it had been like that, la grande Thérèse’s life wouldn’t have been so interesting.

Second, I got it at a used bookstore for 15 pesos — that’s about 35 cents — in near-mint condition. Seriously, except for the mark where the original tag price might have been placed, this book would pass for a new one. Not that it matters. If it’s something trashy, even if it cost 15 pesos, it would still have been too expensive.

Third, it’s a short work, less than 150 pages. Despite this, the author has managed to take the reader through the life of a charismatic peasant girl who succeeded at conning the smartest Parisians at that time. She managed to wield millions of francs from prominent individuals. The thing is, if she had only applied this amount of money toward making real money for herself, she might never have become the kind of person she became, that is, someone who lived from con to con to sustain the lifestyle she got accustomed to. But again, her life might not have become a book. (And I wouldn’t be talking about her.)

I gotta give props to the writer for the extensive research she must have done and for writing a story that is succinct that still manages to capture the essence of the title character, as well as the rest of the dramatis personae in this elaborate hoax. Anyone interested in history might want to read this one. (There goes the not-making-any-recommendation claim.)