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L'Assommoir (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 5 Nov 1998

4.6 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Paperback, 5 Nov 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (5 Nov. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019283813X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192838131
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,577,859 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
I studied this book for part of my English Literature dissertation and can safely say it is the best piece of literature I have ever encountered, on or off my university course. Once I managed to pry it away from myself long enough to write a review, I found it nearly impossible to find the right words to give this book the justice it deserves.
Zola chose to defy the modesty and restraint exercised by many authors in the nineteenth-century, and instead exposed the harrowing lifestyles and troubled relationships of working class Paris. He focused on the immense hardships the poor struggled to overcome and brought to light the harsh realities of the lower classes in their daily struggle to survive. He accurately portrays nineteenth-century working class Paris, combining sorrow, misery, anguish, desperation and despair to produce one of the finest, most descriptive and most moving texts the period can boast.
Zola's frank, yet touching manner of expressing himself without glorifying any details ensured the text was given my full attention from start to finish. I found the base treatment of women and the crude behaviour and beliefs of certain characters deliciously shocking, and this was in the year 2005! I couldn't help but wonder how reading audiences reacted to it in 1877 and found myself compelled to research this text as part of my university studies and learn more about it.
I haven't yet discovered a book that has generated so much power and feeling, having summarised my own thoughts of this book and having read through other reviews of it. It is so much more intense and heart-felt than many modern texts. I have since ordered Nana and am keen to experience more of Zola's works; fortunately there are plenty more of them to keep me satisfied! If they are anything like L'Assommoir, then I know I won't be disappointed.
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Format: Paperback
This is probably Zola's greatest work combining his overpowering skill as a descriptive author alongside the empathy for his characters that he inspires. In L'Assommoir, Zola achives an intricate portrayal of Parisian life in the nineteenth century through the intentions and thoughts of his characters without getting swamped in overworked plot or character description. This work is a masterpiece of human thought and feeling which I highly recommend.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
If you've never read Zola, please take note of other reviewers who after reading one of his books have ordered another, even if not ordinarily given to reading 19th-century French novels.

Gervaise comes to Paris with her lover and their two children. Lantier, her partner, deserts her but she soon drifts into marriage with a solid workingman. All goes smoothly until this husband, Coupeau, is injured on the job. Good-hearted Gervaise nurses him back to health though not back to work, but still, through the good graces of an infatuated neighbour, she acquires her own business. She is successful--to her neighbours' envy--but at the acme of her happiness Lantier reappears and gradually her life falls into decline.

A couple of things that interest me about the story are Gervaise's tragic flaw and Zola's scheme. Gervaise has ambition and spirit, but what ultimately drags her down is nothing more than what used to be called complaisance and now is called 'going with the flow.' Neither she nor any of the other characters is wicked or altogether intolerable (except for the dreadul Lalie); their failings are not on a grand scale. Nor do Zola's notions of the primacy of heredity need to be used to account for these people's foibles. The environment of poverty he describes is sufficient for that.

There are despite the bleakness comic scenes and characters (Mme Lerat, e.g., who though brooking no obscenities manages to find a salacious meaning in the most innocent of remarks). And though I usually merely tolerate descriptive passages, Zola's descriptions bring an immediacy and sensuality that no one else's do.
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