The 2 novels in this volume are early novels, written in 1922 and 1923 respectively, anmd they are allied in mood and setting. Both are studies of that concentrated family feeling, undeviatingly bent on self-interest, which crushes any emotional weaknesses on the part of individuals born or married into the iron circle of bourgeois society in S.W. France. A Kiss for the Leper deals with the marriage arranged between Noemie d'Artialh, a healthy, charming young girl without fortune, to Jean Peloueyre, a wretched youth of poor physique and timid disposition, who could only arouse repulsion in any normal girl, but whose worldly circumstances are considered enviable. The story of their marriage displays Mauriac's 'compassionate realism' at its most striking. He does not evade the horror of the issue, but his searching consideration of their relationship reveals a profound knowledge of human complexity, and his triumph is not only to engage the reader's pity for both victims, but also to impart a measure of serenity and consolation.
Genetrix is the famous study of the devouring mother, a study which ranks with Therese in the force and passion of its characterisation. As with Therese, the reader feels the malevolent integrity of the creature, pitiful in that she desires love and love eludes her, defeated in the end by the power of her own will.