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Father Goriot (Le Père Goriot), published in 1835, is widely considered to be Balzac's finest and most popular novel. It is set in Paris in 1819, after Napoleon's defeat and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. France was undergoing massive social upheaval, as the new bourgeoisie jockeyed for position alongside the old aristocracy. Against this backdrop, we follow the lives of Goriot, an old man who irrationally dotes on his daughters; Vautrin, a shadowy criminal mastermind; and Rastignac, a young man from the provinces who studies how to navigate the complexities and climb the ladder of Parisian society. Balzac's masterful use of physical and psychological detail makes this book a landmark in the development of realism in western literature. - Summary by Bruce Pirie