The late-Thirties world of upper-middle-class Paris, its Barresian politics and Lucien Lelong frocks, reproduced with frivolous and entertaining cynicism by way of young men who deliberately move in the tradition of Stendhal and Balzac. De Boissy makes himself a gentleman of letters and then a serious novelist; Pousselet becomes a journalist straight out of Les Illusions Perdues. Anne-Marie wages a classic campaign to marry de Boissy and you care what happens. The narrator pontificates with arch old-fashioned expansiveness; unfortunately the translation is an atrocious miscellany of Anglo-American slang ranging from ""twerp"" to ""Bye-bye, my pet"" -- and people persistently say ""Ooh, la la"" -- so that it is hard to measure Dutourd's stylistic satire. But one can enjoy the literary jokes, like Pousselet's attempt to assassinate de Boissy's novel through Sainte-Beuveian criticism; and, shallow and essentially smug though it remains, the crafted reproduction of moeurs and maneuvers is admirable.