Letters. And what letters they are.
The reader gets an inside view to love, revenge and lust all played out like a game of chess. The Marquise de Merteuil is heartless in her manipulations and she has no second thoughts in her pursuit of revenge. Her friend and ex-lover the Vicomte de Valmont is just as ruthless in his desire to seek out pleasure and to win a bet.The Marquise wants revenge on a former love interest a Comte de Gercourt - to accomplish this revenge she suggests that the Vicomete seduce and 'spoil' the Comte's betrothed, Cécile Volange. Complicating things is that Cécile simultaneously falls for her music teacher, Chevalier Danceny.
To be an aristocrat at that time meant that boredom ruled and there was plenty of time during the day to think about your next strategic move.
I enjoyed how Laclos uses the epistolary frame for displaying this game of intrigue. Letter writing is so personal and I would imagine that writing provided a way to speak openly at that period of time - very much like email, it is so easy to write than to say your thoughts in person. It was also interesting to see how everyone understood the time frame for mail delivery and could correspond fairly rapidly. Without the 'modern' mail delivery system, this story could not be told.
Initially I sympathized with Cécile and Danceny, but after a while I felt that they were as shallow as their puppeteers. I feel like they were both narcissistic which provided the opening that the Vicome and Marquise needed in order for the game to work. I also thought it must of been exhausting to be the Marquise or the Vicomete; neither had the luxury of letting down their guard even for a moment. And they certainly couldn't trust even each other. It is also ironic that there is a lot of talk of convent life and praying, much hypocrisy which I am sure wasn't avoidable if you were in the game.
Thank you to Simran and Margaret for the buddy-read! I have started watching this on Amazon Prime and Malkovich is perfectly cast!