Top critical review
Early Zola novel is an unconvincing mishmash
28 September 2013
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
The setting is Les Halles, the food markets of Paris. We get page after page describing different kinds of food - their textures, colours, smells, the kind of description that Zola does very well. But, there is an awful lot of it.
Then we have the story of the discontented revolutionary Florent plotting with his fellow conspirators in a local hostelry.
Lastly, we have the stallholders of Les Halles themselves.
These disparate strands don't mesh into a satisfying whole. There is just too much food description, the various stall holders do not emerge clearly enough as distinctive characters and it is never made clear why the revolutionaries are discontented.
This is an early Zola novel and there is a sense that he is trying just a bit too hard; it lacks the natural flow and energy which are hallmarks of his later works.