This is a masterpiece, written in the format of a collection of letters written and sent between the main characters. Quite easily because of the style, the book could be stilted and difficult to read, but it flows. As with any seriously good work of this kind, there are different levels of messages that lie beneath the plot. The characters show that in life we are always a slave to something, it’s up to us to choose what. The two principal characters shun falling in love at all costs, and therefore fall prey to becoming a slave to vanity and selfishness, destroying the lives of others in order to prove to themselves and to each other that they are not in love, ending in their own destruction. It shows the negativity of such cynicism, and the self-destruction that occurs when that cycnism is taken to extreme. Another level served to show, at the time the book was first published, what the landed classes were deemed to be capable of. This type of writing fuelled the French Revolution. It also showed that society of the time (not so much now) was the great regulator of behaviour; anything might be got away with – until it entered the public sphere.
On many levels, this is a truly great, enjoyable, absorbing book.