Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Thérèse Desqueyroux was written by French author Francois Mauriac and published in 1927. It was published in English in 1928.
The story is set in rural southwest France and opens with the dismissal of a court case. The novel’s main character, Thérèse Desqueyroux, was being tried for poisoning her husband Bernard with Fowler’s Solution—a medicine which contains arsenic. But, despite there being plenty of evidence against her, the case has been kicked out. Even her husband testified in her defense. Although, Therese soon realizes that this is only to save his family from scandal. Neither Therese nor Bernard love each other.
As she travels back home we learn more about what has led Therese to this point as she reflects on her life. But, no concrete reason is given for her deciding to poison her husband. Therese is also hoping that now that the case is over she will be able to leave Bernard and move on. However, Bernard takes control of her and moves her into his family’s isolated home. She is kept semi-confined to her bedroom. The only people she sees are the servants, and she is not even allowed to see her daughter. Bernard tells her that he will have her sent to prison if she does not do as she is told. Therese takes to her bed and survives on wine and cigarettes.
When Bernard’s sister Anne becomes engaged, he and Therese are invited to an engagement party. The other guests at the party are shocked when they see Therese’s skeletal appearance. Bernard realizes that he cannot stop the scandal and that, after Anne’s wedding, he needs to let Therese go. He assists her in her physical recovery and after the wedding takes her to Paris. He gives her an allowance and, despite there being no divorce, she is free.