It is said that Stefan Zweig’s short story, Twenty Four Hours in the Life of a Woman, was based on this story by Constance de Salm, but all similarities end here, in the title, because they can’t be more different. Constance de Salm’s one is a very funny short story. It was written two hundred years ago by a French princess who had the aim of creating a satirical novel about women, and she got it.
The main character, a noble widow, has a secret lover and they can’t make their relationship public because of some family matters. Everything starts when she is in the Opera and sees her lover going out with another woman and going away together in a carriage.
As she arrives home, she begins to write letters to her lover. They do it usually and always in the morning and at night they send each other missives with help of their servants. But that night the letter from her lover doesn’t arrive, so she is the only one who writes and those letters are what we are reading.
At first she feels cheated and frustrated, wondering what the other women has got that she hasn’t; why they went away if he has promised everlasting love to her. Hours later she becomes angry because she gets no answer from the man, so she decides to do something about it: she goes to his house, asks his servants and, with their help, she goes in his room and reads his mail. But there’s a shock: she is founded in that way by her lover’s uncle, and everything becomes a scandal.
Her honor is stained, her lover is with another woman and she still doesn’t notice him. She feels like dying… but she keeps on writing! Fortunately, although everything in the story is a tragedy, it has an unexpected happy end.
I liked the way the character wrote the letters: in one of then she felt angry and she said she didn’t want to meet him anymore, and she started the next letter crying “Come back, please!”
While I was reading I realized that some of the chick-lit novels, which are set in nowdays, have a similar argument: women are very jealous and we go crazy if our partners are going away with another woman or if our sms are not answered in five minutes!! So I saw myself in the desesperate character created by Constance de Salm 😀 .
It’s an ideal book for a quiet Sunday afternoon, perhaps accompained by a tasty fruit cake and a good coffee.
My review in Spanish: here