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Pot Luck (Pot-Bouille) (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 21 Jan 1999

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New edition edition (21 Jan. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192831798
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192831798
  • Product Dimensions: 19 x 2.3 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,119,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Brian Nelson is Professor of French and Head of the Department of Romance Languages at Monash University, Melbourne. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I wonder why this book is not more famous - or perhaps it is this new translation which made it such an enjoyable read. If you like Zola, all the traditional elements of poverty and Paris are included, but the wry comedic aspect is quite new. Many chapters of this book could stand in their own right as short stories, and the narrative drive is quite exceptional. The contrast between light comedy and dark tragedy is extreme.
Read before the inevitable BBC Sunday Afternoon serial!
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Format: Paperback
Warning: this review contains spoilers.

The translator tells us that the French title 'Pot-Bouille' is virtually untranslatable. He has opted for the English 'Pot Luck', but 'Melting Pot' would serve just as well.

The novel centres on the lives of the inhabitants, masters and servants, of an apartment building in late 19th century Paris. The masters living lives of genteel poverty, with no moral values; greedy and grasping, condoning sexual laxity, tolerating the presence of live-in lovers. Some of them are blighted by illness, real or imagined - migraines or debilitation - which I assume the author intends us to think are probably caused by venereal infections.

As so often with Zola, his characters do not hold conversations: they rant and rail. Madame Josserand's dialogue is inevitably followed by 'she shrieked' or 'she shouted'; rarely, 'she said'.

Parallel to the lives of the masters are the doings of their servants who are observed in two ways; individually, in their respective employers' households and, collectively, as they exchange badinage and insults across the communal courtyard, at maximum decibel level, of course.

There are moments of comedy, which I don't usually associate with Zola. During a wedding service, the congregation and priest are distracted by a disturbance in a side chapel where Théophile accuses Octave of impropriety with his wife. The scene where Auguste looks for a second for a duel is also amusing.

Towards the end of the novel a powerful episode occurs where Zola describes a woman giving birth alone in her room. This is harrowing stuff, extremely well done. It gives the reader such a jolt as it is totally out of step with the tone of the rest of the novel and what has gone before.

This is a energetic, lively, raucous, entertaining novel. Not top rank Zola, nothing special, but a good read nonetheless.
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Format: Paperback
The 10th in Zola’s epic Rougon-Macquart series of novels, this 1882 work reads to me rather like 'Zola does Upstairs, Downstairs’, focusing as it does on the earthy, duplicitous relationships going on between 'masters’ and 'servants’ in an apartment block in Paris. We have all the trademark Zola traits here of the carefree, selfish exploitation by the 'professional classes’ – including the novel’s anti-hero, the young, aspiring entrepreneur and lothario, Octave Mouret – of the underclass, represented in the novel by the apartment block’s servants. As Octave flits his romantic attention between the various females in the residence (regardless of their existing marital status), Zola provides another biting, uncompromising satire of bourgeois 'values’ i.e. nothing more than the satiation of physical desire and the achievement of 'one-upmanship’ over fellow society members by whatever unscrupulous means are available.

In Pot Luck, Zola draws particularly compelling portraits of his unsympathetic characters (who, perhaps unsurprisingly, are in a large majority), particularly the determined Madame Josserand, who will go to any lengths to secure marriage (and dowry) for her daughters, and Mme. Josserand’s wealthy, debauched brother, Bachelard, who is reluctant to part with his money under any circumstances. Zola continues to explore his perennial obsessions of the influence of heredity and environment on individual fate – the expression 'accident of birth’ being given a starkly powerful meaning via an episode towards the end of the novel. For me, Pot Luck does not quite have the power or narrative variety of the likes of Germinal, l’Assommoir or La Terre, but is nevertheless another fine Zola work.
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Format: Paperback
One of Zola's most accessible novels and a joy to read. Brian Nelson's translation is excellent, though he should have left the title as 'Pot Bouille' as 'Pot luck' is slightly misleading.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
What a lovely book for its intricate descriptive passages. Yes, it exposes the absolute social hypocrisy of the time but today's standards are exactly the same althouigh wrapped up in social correctness and outward care for the poor. The whole book is such as to demand more than one reading. The gentle, yet almost cruel rise to fame and power of Octave Mouret was cleverly done leading up to the Ladies Paradise (the next book by the same author). This book was really good to read and remains much food for thought as to the current state of our own world!
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