France with its Catholicism exists, of course, in Madame Bovary, but it is somewhat more pronounced in Francois Mauriac‘s short novel, Therese Desqueyroux (1927). After all, Mauriac was a Christian—or on the verge of becoming one when he wrote Therese—and his titular heroine commits a grave sin by trying to poison to death her husband Bernard. Peculiarly Bernard, with Therese’s father, works out an exoneration for Therese, but he also forces her to live in near-confinement in his house—a kind of penance. This goes on for a limited time, however.
I have not read in full Mauriac’s other three fictions about Therese, but apparently the errant woman finds God in the one called “The End of the Night,” which I cannot get through. It is Therese Desqueyroux that I find riveting as well as superb, albeit therein there is no salvation. Yielded by the story is the message that a marriage not founded on love can lead to the worst perversion, and such themes as the spiritual worth of a friendship (that of Therese and Anne de la Trave) but also its transience.