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Therese Raquin (Classics) Paperback – Dec 1970

4.2 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; Reprint edition (Dec. 1970)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140441204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140441208
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,188,284 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"A gripping yarn" Guardian --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Emile Zola (1840-1902) is the author of Les Rougon-Macquart - a cycle of 20 novels written over a period of 22 years including Nana(1880), Germinal (1885) and The Drinking Den (1877)- which provides a panoramic view of life under Napoleon III. He was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. Zola campaigned for justice over the Dreyfus affair - `it is up to us poets to nail the guilty to the eternal pillory' - and his open letter to the President `J'accuse' landed him a prison sentence that he evaded only through exile in England. He is buried in the Pantheon alongside Rousseau, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas. Adam Thorpe was born in Paris in 1956. His first novel, Ulverton, was published in 1992, and he has written nine others, two collections of stories and six books of poetry - most recently Voluntary. Thorpe's translation of Madame Bovary, `stunning and heartily recommended' (Scotsman), is available in Vintage Classics. He lives in France with his wife and family.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
THERESE RAQUIN is the earliest of Emile Zola's novels to have maintained a position as a literary work of some intrinsic value and not merely as one of his historically interesting juvenilia or worthless pot-boilers. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Roman Clodia TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 Sept. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a grim little tale of physical lust, crime and guilt set in the seedy world of 19th century Paris. The anti-hero falls in lust with Therese, the wife of his pathetic friend Laurent, and together they conspire to murder him so they can marry (as much for her money as their mutual passion). But the crime comes back to haunt them, quite literally with joint hallucinations of the murdered, drowned man.

Zola takes the new science (at that point) of psychology and applies it here, showing man to be no more than an animal driven by physiological appetites. It's not an edifying view of humanity, and in fact there is little humanity in the book at all, but it's somehow not a depressing read for all that. perhaps Zola's own ghoulish energy lifts it, or the sublime writing? If your French is good enough, then read it in the original, but if not this is an excellent translation.
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Format: Paperback
There is something of the German Novelle about this work - a form of novel that is a thought experiment - what would happen if I put these people in this situation? Typically, such an approach is less concerned with what happens as to how and why things happen and the observation of the impact of events on emotions and behaviour. Often, for example in Goethe's works of this type, the protagonists don't even have names and are given backgrounds only so far as is relevant for the experiment.

Zola, being a trained journalist, doesn't quite allow himself to go that far, but this is still very much a stripped down affair, intended to examine the effect of committing a murder on two lovers. At this time, it was believed that humans were driven by different tempers - bilious, sanguine, nervous and lymphatic. People of a bilious or lymphatic nature were prone to mental distortions. Zola uses these characteristics as handles for his leading characters and his psychological profile as to how they react to events is driven by this piece of medical knowledge. A lot of the surrounding imagery of the book - colours, locations and so on - is based on the traits that were thought to accompany these conditions.

About two thirds of the book is concerned with the consequences of the murder and almost all of this focuses on how the actors are feeling rather than what they are doing. Indeed, Zola often skips over bits of action with a wave of his pen, simply noting that events have happened and as a result the protagonists now have new emotions to deal with. It's the total opposite of the modern `show don't tell' school of writing.
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Format: Paperback
If Emile Zola was writing today he might have been a screen writer. The images, atmosphere, and characterisation in this novel play a desperate film noir in your head that will replay there perhaps for ever.

The modernity of this book is startling. It is almost impossible to believe it was first published in 1867. It is a gripping, seething tale of neglect, bitterness, and lust that turns to horror and despair as its key protagonists crave redemption and release.

Therese is the adopted daughter of a simple haberdasher and her feeble son. She has learnt young to expect nothing from life, and is not disappointed. She marries the son only because it pleases the mother, and, after all, what else is there? It is a life of such alienation and boredom that only a writer as great as Zola could portray it and yet hold the reader in anticipation of what is to follow. And what follows is altogether more eventful: passion described with a vividness that is shockingly erotic; violence that makes the reader wince; fear that haunts you between each reading.

By the time the tale twists into its downward spiral you may fear that Zola does not know where to take it next. It circles for a while in repetitious misery. But the author is only preparing himself for a final assault that leaves you closing the book as if it were a prematurely opened grave: with a mix of terror and fascination.

But most remarkably of all, Zola has somehow, in this story of desperately lost eighteenth century Parisian souls, found qualities and frailties that are so universal and so poignant that you care even as these creatures tear themselves and each other to pieces.
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Format: Paperback
This book has been etched on my soul.
It is dark and disturbing, but so compelling.
A marvellous study in the dark side of human nature.
I am usually disappointed with endings of books, but not this one.
Zola is a great writer.
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By A Customer on 28 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I read this book about a month ago, and I still think about it a lot - despite having since read other books. That alone tells me what a great read it was. Having read other customer reviews prior to buying the book, I expected a ghastly tale of murder, incest and any other human act that, in 1867-1868 might have led to an author being hung! However, what I found in this book was a cautionary tale of how love does not conquer all, and Zola's brilliant interpretation of the distinction between lust and love. Zola paints a highly imaginable picture of the characters' lives, and yes, he does dissect these characters according to then current beliefs about human nature. But what we must remember is that these are his interpretations of what psychological processes could abound after an act of murder carried out in the throes of love, or lust, whichever the reader believes it to be. In modern times we have psychologists to theorise, experiment with and suggest hypotheses pertaining to human behaviour - a discipline that has arisen only over the last century. Books such as this one by Zola enable a valuable insight into what thoughts of human behaviour existed during the 19th century, thoughts that were possibly shared by many, but only one dared voice. Read it for what it is, a tragic love story, and try not to focus on Zola's psychological dissection, and you will enjoy a story rarely told so greatly.
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