Book summary: The Woman with the Velvet Necklace

Book summary: The Woman with the Velvet Necklace

March 23, 2024 by Mylene in Book summary

Published in 1850, The Woman with the Velvet Necklace (la femme au collier de velours in French) by Alexandre Dumas can be divided into 2 parts. The first chapter is indeed autobiographical. In this part, we enter into the intimacy of Alexandre Dumas as he reveals to us his meeting and the literary relationship he maintained with Charles Nodier (1780-1844).

Summary of the book

Charles Nodier was a born protector, a man who detected talents and who could make them known thanks to his influence in Parisian intellectual life. In the Latin of this chapter, Dumas explains that Nodier entrusted him with a story on his deathbed. A great admirer of Dumas, Nodier had, in fact, chosen Dumas to write the story he had in mind.

Throughout the rest of the book, you will delve into 1793, and you will follow the adventures of Hoffmann, a young 18-year-old German who dreams of becoming a theater director. After fleeing his uncle’s home because he would rather not become a lawyer, he took refuge in Mannheim with his friend Zacharias because the music was good. There, he met an angel, Antonia, a young girl with whom he fell in love. Antonia, the daughter of Master Gottlieb, conductor and lover of Italian music, pious and singer, is also captivated by the charm of young Hoffmann.

But Théodore Hoffmann has a dream: to go to Paris to discover the museums and music.

Antonia pushes him to leave to make this dream come true, asking him only to remain faithful to her and not to gamble. Because yes, Hoffmann, just like Zacharias, tends to play large sums of money. Antonia even goes so far as to say that she would die if he did not respect this wish.

In Paris Rules of Terror, Hoffmann will first be traumatized by the execution of Madame du Barry, who is guillotined at the Place de la Révolution. Subsequently, he goes to the Opéra theater where he meets a mysterious doctor and especially Arsène, dancer and mistress of Danton who wears this famous velvet necklace whose clasp is a guillotine. He becomes totally obsessed with this woman. Buying this woman means being able to have this woman. So to earn money, he goes to play at the Palais-Royal, completely forgetting the promises made to Antonia. He earns good money, but has difficulty finding Antonia. Following Danton’s arrest, she fled and was found by Hoffmann, in the middle of the night, under the scaffold.

Attracted by gold, the young woman follows him to a hotel.

But the next day, Hoffmann realizes that it was Arsène’s corpse that spent the night with him and not Arsène herself. Indeed, when the doctor unfastens the velvet necklace with the silver clasp which encircles the young woman’s neck, Arsène’s head rolls at the feet of his lover.

Hoffmann manages to escape but later learns that his fiancée, Antonia, is dead.

Explore the rich world of literature through Alexandre Dumas and beyond

Reading a book by Alexandre Dumas in its original French language not only allows you to fully appreciate the beauty of Dumas’s prose, but also offers a fascinating glimpse The French History. So why not take the plunge and open up a whole new world of literature by exploring French literature further? 

Consider taking the first step on this exciting journey by joining our book club, FrenchBookmark, and connecting with other avid readers who share your passion and appreciation for timeless French classics and the whole new world of French literature.

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