Honoré de Balzac was a realist writer in France during the 1800s. This novel is set in France after the Revolution. This book will make more sense if one knows a tiny bit about the French Revolution and can start the book in a quiet frame of mind, with at least an hour and a beverage handy, as Balzac crams an incredible amount of backstory and foundation into the first pages. Balzac was an interesting man and a formidable and tenacious writer. The book isn't for everyone but it is part of the classic literature of France.