Pierre et Jean
by Guy de Maupassant
Another head scratching inclusion on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. I'm not complaining because Pierre et Jean checks in at something close to 100 pages so it takes about an hour and a half to read, but really, why? Why include Pierre et Jean? The accompanying essay in my book says that it represents a turning point away from the Naturalism of Zola/Balzac towards a greater concern with psychology and human relationships but um hello, Gustave Flaubert? Madame Bovary came out in 1856.
Pierre and Jean are a couple of brothers from a well off family, one planning to be a lawyer, the other a doctor. When an old "family friend" unexpectedly leaves his estate to the lawyer, the other brother is pissed off, and, as it turns out, the lawyer son is actually the real son of the dead guy, pathos ensues. It's a quick, breezy read, but hardly what I would call a classic, and certainly not one of the 1001 Books I should read prior to death.
Even if you are talking about the novels of Guy de Maupassant (he is better remembered for his short stories) Pierre et Jean places a far distant second to Bel Ami, which at the very least, is an a la mode tale of fast living and loose women.