This novel, one of Kessel's earliest, which he claimed at the time to be closest to his heart, has a fairly inflammable theme and was tremendously successful when it was published in France in the late '20's. In the cooling off period since, the sensationalism of the subject may seem more subdued; on the other hand more modern, or American, readers may well feel that the handling is florid. This is the story of Severine whose protected marriage to a wealthy, prominent Paris surgeon is one of ""passionate affection"" rather than passion. A childhood rape, a suppressed memory, accounts for her physical reluctance and retreat, and later for the ""incomprehensible, incurable"" obsession which one day brings her to the brothel where she becomes a ""belle de jour"", servicing all kinds of men. Eventually she becomes dependent on one young man, Marcel, and so precipitates the inevitable violence, scandal and tragedy to follow... Kessel's book was not meant to be a pathological/clinical case history, but to show the ""desperate divorce... between body and soul"" as well as an addiction as implacable as any other. The intention may be betrayed by the actuality, for it may have been read then as it may be now for other reasons.