Talk about your groomers. Fin du siècle France, and the world of the grandes horizontales. Léa, the epitome of her genre, has taken on the son of one of her compatriots, to tutor him to please a future wife. She is in her fifties, and he is but fifteen, but that is as it should be. He is devastatingly beautiful, and his mother trusts her friend to bring him up to par for the matrimonial market, shall we say. Alas. after six years, he is under her spell for keeps, and the future wife does not stand a chance. She lives up to her end of the bargain and tries to remain professional about it all, but can’t help falling for the boy.
But and , in the end, is nothing but a pretty bauble. He does marry the innocent wealthy wife, Edmée, but it doesn’t take long for her to realize what she’s got, and she makes the most of her situation. The Great War has come and gone (with Chéri heading to the front at the last moment and keeping well out of action), and Edmée finds her cause in hospitals for the invalids and the handsome doctors found therein. Chéri finds himself redundant, and it does not go well for him.
But I loved the very un-puritanical mindset of this world and I must say, it cracks me up that his wife calls Chéri by his actual name, which is Fred. Seriously?