One of the important points made in the translator's foreword of this edition (which I once owned and stupidly lent, never to be returned) is that Zola actually wrote this novel in a coarse form of contemporary French, which was almost like Parisian street slang at times. Tancock carries this over in this translation, and in doing so provides a much more powerful experience for the reader than other versions I have read. It's not dainty, or toned down, but is much more raw and real, and more formally satisfying, because of it. You can smell the squalour in this version, but because of the brusqueness of the language, it has a slight humourous edge as well, which can offset some of the darker moments, and prevent it from becoming overly maudlin - a failing of some other translations, which tend to overplay the pathos. So if you really want to experience the raw power of this novel, try to get this translation.
The story itself is a deeply moving and also shocking one, all the more so for being laced through with a faint thread of hope, at least until the later stages. Although personally, I think this not Zola's greatest work (I would rate 'Germinal' higher, and I think 'La Debacle' may be more compelling a ride, and more horrific), for me Gervaise is his best-drawn character, by a mile. The first time I finished this book I remember finding myself, the following morning, looking in a local newspaper, and on the teletext (this was before the internet) for more news about Gervaise. The ending-so brutal, so shocking, and so dispassionately written, like a lens pulling away from its subject-had affected me that deeply. I remember being outraged, and experiencing a kind of mourning for this woman who, despite her failings, you couldn't help but sympathise with. As other reviewers have said, once read this story will stay with you forever.