First, this is a super fast read, and what makes it so engaging is its somewhat unconventional style. Balzac is a realist, or a proto-realist. He writes in a fairly straight-forward, restrained manner. But, his way of piling detail upon detail to reveal just barely three-dimensional characters is how the sarcasm and the humor comes in. Plus, it's an amorality morality tale, in which certain characters have to feel pain because they're merely there to illustrate a point. (In case you're curious, people are irrationally greedy.) Once the dominoes are set and the pattern revealed, there's something comforting about watching them fall in a predictable way.