When I began reading "Père Goriot", I wasn't sure I would like it, because for the first dozen pages or so, Balzac let the narrative voice run riot. Granted, the narrative voice has its place in terms of creating for the reader setting, mood, and characters. But once those elements have been established, I prefer that the narrator step aside and let the main characters have their say.
Thankfully, Balzac spared me further agonies upon introducing the young Rastignac (a rube and law student from Southern France keen to make his mark in genteel Parisian society), the wily and mysterious Vautrin, Goriot himself, and a few of the other characters in Madame's Vauquer's boarding house. They, together with their friends, lovers, and rivals, made this novel well worth reading.
Simply put,"Père Goriot" succeeds as a morality play on French society in the immediate post-Napoleonic era.