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This review is from: Germinal (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
A masterpiece of social commentary with a great story line and larger-than-life characters. It portrays the miserable conditions of the coal miners in 19th century Northern France. Pushed to the limit by a pay cut they go on strike, led by the enigmatic newcomer and budding Socialist, Etienne. The stakes are massive: potential starvation on the miners' part and financial ruin on the part of the mine owners. Zola tells the story from both angles. Things get more and more desperate and tragedy inevitably looms.
There is a wide array of characters, all believable and each one flawed. Even the pit horses get the full treatment: condemned to live and die underground without ever seeing a field again. It is all very moving.
This is powerful writing: vivid, thoughtful, brutal, sympathetic. It is undoubtedly one of the finest books I have read and fully deserves its string of glowing reviews.