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zola shows how it should be done - again
on 5 April 2010
people tend to liken zola to dickens for the way in which he took a broad view of society, spending as much, if not more, time exploring and documenting the life of the working class than any other writer i can think of. this comparison is kind on dickens.
there are no cartoon villains or two-dimensional virgin waifs in zola, just credible, fallible characters who have a real reek of authenticity about them.
in l'assommoir zola documents the rise and fall of another member of the rougon-macquart clan, gervaise, who drags herself out of the gutter only to plunge back into it through by ill-chosen men and a displays of wealth designed to annoy her friends and family. the set-pieces involving gervaise's grand meals are spectacularly handled and oddly modern in the examination of politiking and display - anyone who has endured an excruciating dinner party or even christmas dinner with less than lovely inlaws will be nodding all the way through.
i don't want to give too much away but this is a book which does not disappoint. the translation - always a minefield with zola - is clear and concise and the dialogue especially gives a credible impression of the language and rhythm of working class speech.
if you have read nana already try this next and see her origins - if not order both as they are best appreciated together and do flow on.