Therese Desqueyroux - French Edition Author:Francois Mauriac The novel is set in the Landes, a sparsely populated area of south-west France covered largely with pine forests. As it opens, a court case is being dismissed. The narrator, the titular Thérèse, has been tried for poisoning her husband Bernard by overdosing him with Fowler's Solution, a medicine containing arsenic. Despite stro... more »ng evidence against her, including prescriptions she forged, the case has been dropped; the family closed ranks to prevent scandal and Bernard himself testified in her defence. On the journey home, Thérèse reflects at length on her life so far, trying to understand what brought her to continue poisoning her husband after she observed him taking an accidental overdose. She suggests that her actions were part of an "imperceptible slope", caused in part by the pressures of motherhood and marriage and the stifling life of a Catholic landowner's wife in 1920s rural France. However, neither Thérèse nor the narrator himself provide a clear explanation for her behaviour.
Thérèse assumes that she will be able to leave her husband quietly now the case is over. Instead, Bernard announces that she is to live at his family house, in an isolated spot in the pine forest, at Argelouse. He effectively confines her there, giving out that she suffers from a nervous complaint, and making the occasional public appearance with her to quell any gossip. His concern is that the forthcoming marriage of his younger sister Anne, to a suitor approved by the family, is not prevented by any scandal. He allows Thérèse no company other than unsympathetic servants, keeps their daughter away from her, and threatens to send her to prison for the poisoning if she does not cooperate. Thérèse lives mainly on wine and cigarettes, falls into a passive stupor and takes to her bed. When she is ordered to attend a dinner party for Anne, her fiancé and his family, she does so, but her emaciated appearance shocks the guests. Bernard decides that the scandal will never be fully forgotten unless Thérèse is allowed to disappear without controversy. He promises she can leave after Anne's wedding, and moves back to Argelouse to supervise her recovery. The wedding over, he takes Thérèse to Paris and bids her farewell. There will be no official separation and no divorce, and she has an allowance to live on. She is free to go.« less