I just finished reading Manon Lescaut by Abbé Prévost for an online class and, goodness, does it make me glad I wasn’t around in 1731 because people just could not get their shit together.
Spoiler alert. But you really shouldn’t care because it unravels exactly how you’d expect and also it really isn’t a page-turner anyways.
The gist of the book is this random dude recites a story told to him by this young guy, the Chevalier des Grieux, who was obsessed with a hottie named Manon Lescaut. Love/lust turns des Grieux into the most annoying guy. He’s like boo hoo, woe is me, I have to entertain Manon’s unlimited social fancies to get some but, oh shit, now I don’t have any money so I’m just gonna lie to every single person I know and maybe accidentally kill a couple of people (oops!) and hopefully someone eventually will hand over some dough.
The guy can’t just get a day job.* Also, Manon is ridiculously malleable. When she starts to realize how poor she and her mister are getting, someone recommends she hook up with this old rich dude for money (yes, she pimped herself out) and she’s like, Great idea! And then she does it, with more than one person. We don’t know much about Manon, or her agenda, because the story is told through des Gieux’s eyes and he doesn’t seem to notice much apart from her sultry sighs and sexy bod.
In all honesty, Prévost does pose some interesting questions about the nature of narrative. This is a story within a story; we’ve got one anonymous narrator and one compulsive liar narrator. How much do we believe? How much do we get out of it? Who is Manon Lescaut?
*In his defense, he does try seminary school and does very well at it but then Manon shows up and he drops his panties again. :(
Book: Manon Lescaut
Author: Abbé Prévost