10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
A desperate tale of poverty and hardship in the 19th Century,
This review is from: L'Assommoir (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
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 be a struggle, but can honestly say that this entire book was a pleasure to read (even if some of the scenes were unbelievably disturbing).
The book ultimately recounts the life of Gervaise, a young French woman. We see her climb high and achieve happiness and success, but then witness the downwards spiral of her destruction. But the book isn't solely about Gervaise, as Zola introduces many other characters, whose traits all juxtapose with one another, creating a melting pot of comedy, drama and tension. He also depicts the most dreadful scenes of poverty and hardship, scenes that are almost unbelievable to imagine living in the luxury of the 21st Century. Zola's talent in slowly building up characters and plot make the book the success it is; he takes his time to describe scenes, for example he spends the whole of Chapter 7 describing Gervaise's great feast. But these lengthy scenes don't hinder the novel in the slightest, instead they give the reader time to slowly and gradually absorb all of the details. I felt as though I had stepped into the pages of this book.
Overall a remarkable piece of writing. This will certainly not be my last novel by Zola.