Wednesday, March 3, 2010


L'Assommoir by Emile Zola
Translated Margaret Mauldon
Oxford University Press, 2009;
Originally published 1877
440 pages

Summary: "The first novel about the common people that does not lie." Part of Zola's story cycle this is the story of a woman in working-class Paris and her life with her lover and husband, their children, and her eventually downfall through pride and drink.

Why I Read: It was for class as we were studying the Second Empire of France. I had also read "Therese Raquin" in my hated English class in high school.

My thoughts: I had enjoyed "Therese Raquin" until about the halfway point and that also occurred in this book. It seems I like the story until the inevitable downfall of the main character. Here Gervaise is a successful laundress whose husband Coupeau is also an industrious member of society. But after he is injured on the job, he slowly recuperates and then spends most of his days drinking. She takes longer to fall but eventually does so too. I found the characters very unsympathetic. There are vivid descriptions of husband to wife and father to daughter beatings and overall I found it very disgusting. I hope it doesn't make me a snob if I say that if this is truly accurate, then I'm glad I'm not working class French in the Second Empire.

Overall: 3/5 I think I only finished it because it was for class.

Random Question: My professor called Zola the greatest French writer. The class disagreed suggesting Flaubert, Hugo, and Dumas instead. Personally I've found Dumas the most enjoyable. What do you think?


  1. I personally agree that Zola may be one of the best French writers after maybe Voltaire, but I find a lot of his work depressing. Even Flaubert's work is somewhat depressing while I love Dumas as an escapism because his work usually tends to have a happier note to do. Les Trois Mousquetaires is an incredible read.

  2. Maybe I'll have to give Zola another chance...I do prefer happier works though. I will try to read Les Trois.


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