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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A desperate tale of poverty and hardship in the 19th Century
The books of Emile Zola were recommended to me by a friend so I decided to try this one. It exceeded all of my expectations; I was prepared for a difficult, laborious read and instead found myself instantly engrossed. I find it incredible that a book written over 125 years ago could be so enjoyable today. I don't often read classic literature, finding it sometimes to...
Published on 14 Feb 2006 by Joanne Schofield

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars L'Assommoir - a relentless read
Zola doesn't spare the reader. This account of a laundress' progress from relatively comfortable existence to grinding poverty is relentless, never letting up for a minute as the author depicts the day to day life of a group of people living on the breadline in late 19th century Paris. In the world of 'L'Assommoir', no-one talks over a problem, they argue and fight;...
Published on 2 July 2009 by Mr. T. Harvey

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning and disturbing, 14 Feb 2007
Puskas "Mortensen" (Warwickshire, England) - See all my reviews
This book is masterful. I defy anyone to read certain episodes in this book (the cruel death of little Lalie Bijard, and the sad decline of Per Bru to name but two) without being deeply moved. Gervaise tried to live the medium-to-high life by her own hard work and efforts, but due to various troubles, many not of her own making, she eventually experiences degradation, poverty and starvation. Another reviewer has remarked that the depths of humanity portrayed in 'L'Assommoir' are still very relevant to this day.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars crushed and ground - for so long - under the heel of fate, 13 Jun 2011
rob crawford "Rob Crawford" (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: L'Assommoir (Classics) (Mass Market Paperback)
There are few novels as bleak and unrelenting as this one, at least in my reading experience. Over 500 pages, you witness the aspirations and grotesque decline of a working-class family into alcoholism, promiscuity, and violence. It is so awful, the blows so continual and harsh, that only the most committed of readers will be able to get through it. But for those that do, I believe there are great rewards.
On many levels, this book broke new ground. First, it is a clinical dissection of the progression of alcoholism, based on direct observation by Zola and scientific research, describing not only its symptoms in gory detail, but its impact on a family. Second, it was one of the first attempts to portray the working class realistically, rather than as a sterotype of inferior crudity or romanticised as noble savages. THis spawned an entire genre of socially relevant novels and is a great contribution. Third, it introduced an entirely new vocabulary into French art, that is, the gutter argot that the Academie Francaise condemned as unsuitable. Taken together, these are remarkable acheivements.

While I hesitate to reveal the plot, I assume that most readers will know it in outline. It involves a good person - a hard-working laundress with dreams of running her own shop - who marries a neighbor a few weeks after her lover leaves her with two children in Paris. For many years, things go well: they love eachother, work very hard and save money, and live cleanly. THen, after a terrible accident, the husband begins to drink, which initiates a downward spiral that is so painful to follow: his work suffers, then his marriage, and finally his health. The laundress, who is so sympathetic and full of hopes, is simply crushed under the burden of supporting everyone financially and emotionally. SHe wants to do what is right and fails utterly, helpless to halt the destruction she is witnessing. In addition, her many enemies, such as her spiteful in-laws and neighborhood gossips, add cruel twists to her decline.

The heroine's misery and debasement are monuments to naturalist realism, through which Zola aspired to show things as they really are: there is none of the growth and romantic redemption that one expects in Anglo-saxon novels from the same period of the late 19C. On a broader longitudinal scheme, the novel also shows the backgrounds of two of Zola's most important characters, the half-siblings Nana and Etienne, who are the central characters in two truly great novels that follow (Nana and Germinal). FInally, it adds a crucial dimension to the portrait of 2nd-Empire France, that of the working class.

Recommended as a truly historic novel. However, the reader is warned that there is little pleasure in store.
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3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning, 10 Aug 2002
By A Customer
I could not put this book down. Following the life of 'banban' through the tradgedies and depravities of 18Century paris was absolutely captivating.
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L'Assommoir (Classics)
L'Assommoir (Classics) by Emile Zola (Mass Market Paperback - 25 Jun 1970)
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