The Classics Circuit is pleased to announce that your vote for Paris in the Spring authors was a tie! Since both Emile Zola and Alexandre Dumas are well worth reading and discussing, both French authors will tour the Circuit this Spring. Although you can sign up to read and then invite both authors to your site, don’t feel obligated to do so: the two tours will be slightly overlapping, so keep your own reading schedule and abilities in mind.
Today begins sign up for the Emile Zola tour, which will begin April 5 and run until April 23 or April 30, depending on the number of interested tour participants. Once sign up closes for this tour, we will open sign up for the Alexandre Dumas tour. The tours will be overlapping by a week or so (again, depending on the number of tour participants).
When you indicate that you want to participate, please keep in mind that we will assign you a date during the tour on which you should post. If you are unable to meet your assigned date, let us know and we can reassign you: otherwise, we’ll take you off the schedule. Please let us know when you sign up your preferred and/or unavailable days during the month.
Zola Circuit sign up will be open until the evening of Sunday, February 28. Sign up is now closed. If you would still like to join the tour, send an email to the tour leader at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible.
The Life of Emile Zola
Emile Zola lived from 1840 until 1902. Although he started his writing career by writing in a romantic style, later he adopted the principles of naturalism, which claims that social conditions, heredity and environment somewhat dictate what type of life one will have, and his depition of bohemian lifestyle caused a rift between Zola and his friends, like painter Paul Cezanne. Although he wrote short stories and some plays, many of his novels capture the epic history of one fictionalized family through generations; the novels in the Les Rougon-Macquart cycle are connected, but all of them can be read as stand-alone novels.
Works by Emile Zola
The following list was taken from Wikipedia.
Thérèse Raquin (1867): Generally considered Zola’s first major work. The tragic story of a young unhappily married woman and her ill-fated affair. Considered an example of Naturalism because of its detached, scientific approach. (Wikipedia)
- “Therese Raquin is a book I can heartily recommend to just about anyone. It would also be a good choice for a book club looking for an accessible, exciting, and short classic” Jo Anne at Lakeside Musing).
- “I think there is something utterly readable and uncomplicated about Zola’s writing, anyone could read it and need not feel daunted by the idea that it’s a classic and might therefore be inaccessible, tricky or obscure” (DGR at dovegreyreaderscribbles).
- “It is a wonderfully imaginative, atmospheric piece of writing, macabre, tragic, gruelling, and one which will stay with me for a long time” (Harriet at Harriet Devine’s Blog).
- “Zola’s story has a gripping grittiness for the first half, and his depiction of frank sexuality was sufficiently ahead of its time to be the source of scandal on publication” (John Self at Asylum).
- “To say Thérèse Raquin is a dark story is probably an understatement, but it’s a story that’s well worth the time and effort.” (Danielle at A Work in Progress)
Les Quatre Evangiles:Fécondité (1899); Travail (1901); Justice (unfinished);Vérité [Truth] (1903, published posthumously). Based on his experiences with the infamous Dreyfus case, this powerful last novel by Emile Zola about the scape-goating of a Jewish schoolteacher is a chilling depiction of anti-Semitism fully embedded in European society and an eerie presentiment of the Holocaust that would sweep across the Continent only forty years later. (Amazon)
- “Truth is Emile Zola’s last novel and was published after his death. It is his longest book and deals with the transformative power of Truth, Justice, and Love. It also deals with how social change happens slowly through generational change rather than by changing the minds of individuals.” (F. Orion Pozo at Amazon)
A 20-novel series following the life of a French family during the Second French Empire (1852-1870). (Note: These are in publication order, not the order Zola intended them to be read.)
La Fortune des Rougon [The Fortunes of the Rougons] (1871). A series of intertwining stories of a family during the coup d’etat that began the Second Empire. (via Karl Jansson at Amazon)
- “The Fortune Of The Rougons has everything you expect from good French literature: intrigue, skull duggery, a complex maze of intertwining characters and all this against a vivid historical background.” nakedplanet@iac at Amazon
- “I enjoyed reading it. For people who enjoy literature, this is a thinking man’s tawdry soap opera.” The Pete at Amazon
- “The book is very entertaining, clearly and simply written and a real page-turner.” Kenneth Windrum at Amazon
La Curée [The Kill] (1871–72). A story of Paris, focusing on the lust for money and the lust for pleasure. (See Amazon)
- “This book is full of excess and scheming. Lovers are passed around like currency, and debauchery becomes commonplace. Zola’s portrait of Paris during the Second Empire is defined by indulgence.” Matthew W. Kingore at Amazon
- “it is simultaneously a masterpiece of naturalism and a perfectly-balanced metaphor. ” W. Shriver at Amazon
- “It is a retelling of the Phaedra myth with timeless human character archetypes and relationships, but with specific historical details of Paris in the 1850′s. Zola uses the perverse sexual and monetary excesses of the novels characters to criticize the Second Empire’s decadent morality.” Stbalbach at LibraryThing
Le Ventre de Paris [The Belly of Paris, The Fat and the Thin] (1873). An escaped political prisoner finds refuge with working-class families near the central market at Les Halles. (via Wikipedia)
- “I live in Paris, so it was interesting for me to read this novel. I can tell you that nothing has changed since Zola wrote this book, except the market has moved to Rungis.” Dr. Elizabeth Burke “thinking” at Amazon
- “The setting of Les Halles makes an unforgetable backdrop to this story and informs the reader in great detail of the workings of the market halls. From the start the reader is left to wonder at the fate of Florent and this is not realised until the end in a drama of twists and turns.” judyb65 at LibraryThing
- “Zola writes incredible, wonderful, sometimes overpoweringly detailed and evocative portraits of the market goods, from silvery fish to pungent cheeses to flowers to fruit to meat to…there is a lot. In contrast with the main character Florent’s physical/emotional leanness and constant hunger, in the marketplace bounty, fecundity, and aggressive overabundance carry the day. The air is full of battling smells, raucous voices, flying rumors, and sexual tension. It’s easy to emerge from one of Zola’s descriptive bouts with a faint nausea and the inclination to lie down for a while with some ginger tea and a cold compress.” Amy at Goodreads
La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret [The Sins of Father Moret] (1875). An anticlerical novel about an isolated and disinterested community.
- “One of my favourite all time books about passion and the damage caused by religion. The descriptions of nature are breathtakingly beautiful. ” kathythereader at LibraryThing
- “A vast painting, from Zola’s caustic point of view, of France in the latter half of the 19th century, and fascinating for that. Descriptions are vivid and detailed. Recommended.” Peter J. Torvick Jr at Amazon
L’Assommoir [The Gin Shop, The Drunkard] (1877): “Usually considered one of Zola’s masterpieces, the novel—a harsh and uncompromising study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris—was a huge commercial success and established Zola’s fame and reputation throughout France and the world.” (Wikipedia)
- “The characters’ lives are so full of difficulties and pain (following, of course, a long period of good times) that it’s impossible not to find yourself immersed in the story. … “L’Assommoir” is a brilliant and important novel, a wonderful starting point for Zola, and an equally great jumping off point for further Zola books. ” Biblibio at Amazon
- “Maybe it’s just me who likes Zola so much, but this has been so far an all time favorite. Zola’s realism is frightening. It’s one of those books that describe reality so well, in such an ugly way that you find yourself unable to put the book down. Sometimes Zola exaggerates, maybe, but most of the time, it’s so painfully true. ” Rebecca at Goodreads
- “Brilliant – the characters are so frustrating in their self destruction. Compelling reading” judyb65 at LibraryThing
Nana (1880): Tells of “Nana Coupeau’s rise from streetwalker to high-class cocotte” and how she ” destroys every man who pursues her.” Nana previously appeared in L’Assommoir.
- “Reading this was rather like eating an extraordinarily delicious meal — you feel you really should slow down and savour every mouthful, but instead you race through, stuffing yourself with all the irresistible goodies” (Harriet at Harriet Devine’s Blog)
- “the novel is excellent, a masterpiece of French literature, a critique on the ridiculous level of poverty at the time.” Rachell Garrett at Amazon
- “Zola is perhaps the best pure writer I’ve ever read. By this I mean the beauty and flow of his writing independent of all other considerations is unmatched.” Douglas Schmidtt at Amazon
Pot-Bouille [Pot Luck] (1882). A satire showing the “melting pot of moral and sexual degeneracy” in 19th century Paris. (see Amazon)
- “Although many stories about bourgeoisie lives have been written, I’ve never come across characters as vivid, comical, harsh, evolving and disgusting as those portrayed in this book. Gossips, money, sex, adulteries, self advancement and selfishness are so well mashed in the pot, they’ll warm up to readers’ hearts. I can really feel for the characters cause they seem very much alive, it almost seem that I’m living next door to them.” jazzy baby at Amazon
- “A good jolly soap opera of a book. ” A Customer at Amazon
- “a thoughtful, engaging tale by one of the world’s greatest novelists.” Utah Blaine at Amazon
Au Bonheur des Dames [The Ladies' Paradise] (1883): Set in a department store, the book describes the working lives of the store employees and the retail innovations brought about by the dawn of the department store era. (Wikipedia)
- “Here’s the nineteenth century version of ‘does my bum look big in this’ meets ‘shop ’til you drop’ and it’s an absolute joy of a read (DGR at dovegreyreaderscribbles).
- “Zola’s novel is before its time. It accurately describes a social issue of today, the bigger commercial store taking over the small, personalized store.” A Customer at Amazon
- “This story works on so many levels, as so many of Zola’s books do-it’s highly entertaining, I mean as entertaining as fun as any contemporary fiction-and it’s also historically engaging, morally sound, educational and even has current relevance. Everyone should read him!” Justice at Amazon
- “Denise, who indeed suffers what Zola called “poverty in a black silk dress,” is plucky, and she ultimately breaks the glass ceiling in her own gentle way. She encounters sexual harassment and somehow triumphs. She is a modern woman, perhaps European literature’s first truly modern heroine ever. …This book is one of the best ever written, bar none, and it is light years ahead of its time.” Anne Babson poetrygirl at Amazon
La Joie de vivre [The Joy of Life] (1884).
- “This is not my favorite (best so far is Germinal followed by L’Assoimor and the Beast Within) but it is always an experience reading his novels. This is without a doubt the saddest book I have ever read but Zola never disappoints. I always feel somehow changed after a Zola read. His books are so personal that I feel moved for days after completing one. There is something for everyone in his buffet of works; if you don’t like one, just move on and you’ll find one to your liking. ” paioniabees “beeswrangler” at Amazon
Germinal (1885): “Often considered Zola’s masterpiece and one of the most significant novels in the French tradition, the novel – an uncompromisingly harsh and realistic story of a coalminers’ strike in northern France in the 1860s – has been published and translated in over one hundred countries as well as inspiring five film adaptations and two TV productions.” (Wikipedia)
- “I would strongly recommend Germinal as one of the major novels of the 19th century but one that transcends time and place. The issues evoked in the novel regarding labor versus capital are just as relevant to today’s world.” Dana Keish at Amazon
- “it is indeed a truly epic story skilfully blended with penetrating political and economic analysis, not least of the mixture of motives that push people to stand up for their rights or those of others. …. Deeply moving, shocking, but ultimately uplifting, for in the wreckage of the miners’ crushing defeat after their strike Zola, for once, offers a glimmer of hope.” A Customer at Amazon
- “Above all, however, Zola’s best work is simply an incredibly riveting, exciting, deeply moving and tremendously powerful work of fiction. Read the rise and fall of Lantier, Maheu, Bonnemort, Deneulin, Catherine, Souvarin and the other comrades, and weep.” M.A. Krul at Amazon
L’Œuvre [The Masterpiece] (1886): “A highly fictionalized account of Zola’s friendship with the painter Paul Cézanne.” (Wikipedia)
- “There are times when this book can be very frustrating, when you want to reach through the pages and shake some sense into the characters. But eventually, that’s what made me love this as much as I did–despite their flaws, the characters in The Masterpiece are unforgettable” (Daily Words and Acts).
- “It is a book of passion and the attempt of an artist to break through the boundaries set upon him and to come to grips with his own limitations. I could hardly put the book down at all once I’d begun reading it as Zola’s prose is a joy to behold and a work of art in itself.” A Customer from Amazon
- “The specific plot relates to Art but it brings a massage that is true for every human creation that might become to one’s absession. Reading this book takes the reader on an amazing journey that begins as fine arts and crosses the lines to a tragedy. A full CATARSIS. recommanded :)” A Customer at Amazon
La Terre [The Earth] (1887). “A fascinating portrayal of a struggling but decadent community, it offers a compelling exploration of the destructive nature of human ignorance and greed.” (via Amazon)
- “This book is a masterpiece. Had Zola not written the awe-inspiring Germinal, this would clearly be his greatest work. Zola does his best writing when he focuses not on Parisian society but rather on the lower classes: the laborers, the peasants, the working stiffs….The book achieves a tremendous range of mood. It’s like an emotional roller coaster.” Karl Janssen on Amazon
- “Jealousy, murder, rape, farting, love, blasphemy, birth, longing, violence, cursing, sex it’s all here…even a belligerent puking donkey! Yes, Zola’s storytelling can sometimes be shocking bordering on vulgar, but so is life. A masterpiece.” Darsh at Amazon
- “For all their bickering, hypocrisy, godlessness, treachery, and murder, the Beauce farmers are still a community. They live at their own rhythm — the rhythm of The Earth — and can’t care less about morals. The only relevant laws are the unwritten ones pertaining to community, family, and Mother Earth, no matter how destructive. On the whole, a wonderful book, one of my favorites of the Rougon-Macquart series.” UncleCliffy at Amazon
Le Rêve [The Dream] (1888). A fairy story loosely connected with the Rougon-Macquart cycle (see A Customer at Amazon).
- “Yes, The Dream does diverge a bit from the others in Les Rougon-Macquart series, but because of that, I really liked it. Less grit, more sweetness. I found it quite engaging.” An Avid Reader at Amazon
- “Written as a “passport to the Academy,” this novel stands alone among the Rougon-Macquart series for its pure, idyllic grace.” akompano at Amazon
- “The novel is well written, but is too imbued with religious theme and too one-dimensional to be ranked as high as other Zola’s novels.” myshiak at Amazon
La Bête humaine [The Beast Within, The Beast in Man] (1890): A psychological thriller involving a madman and murder centered on the railway between Paris and Le Havre.
- “La Bete Humaine, a lurid tale of sex and murder, was for all its sensational content remarkably dull” (Colleen at Bookphilia.com).
- “”The Beast Within” is still a fascinating read and a deeply unsettling look at the human condition” Z.E. Lowell at Amazon
- “Zola has created some very strong and unforgetable scenes that recreate the era in which the railway network was expanding in France. ‘La Bete Humaine’ is very dark and shocking and the plot provides a compelling read.” judyb65 at LibraryThing
L’Argent [Money] (1891). White-collar crime in 19th century France. (see Amazon)
- “[It] tells you in Zola’s inimitable style about how the stock market works and the psychology of market players. Nothing has really changed since it was written over a hundred years ago.” A Customer at Amazon
- “Regardless of the historical social commentary, one can enjoy this novel purely for its intricately-drawn characters and its insights into human nature.” Karl Janssen at Amazon
- “All in all, it is a classic novel, not only about the money, but about the humanity, as well. ” myshiak at Amazon
La Débâcle (1892). “[An] account of the Franco-Prussian War and its aftermath as experienced by ordinary people, both soldiers and civilians.” A Customer at Amazon
- “This was an amazing story about the Franco-Prussian war, but it could have been about any war and the destructive influence it has on men and women, and on all human relationships. Zola tells the story, in vivid, sometimes gruesome but always very compassionate and heartbreaking detail (most of the plot is based on real historical events), of the absolute disaster that was the Franco-Prussian “debacle” of 1870-1. … An absolute masterpiece! ” Justice at Amazon
- “this is an outstanding novel, whether one likes war novels or not. Zola is one of the greatest novelists ever to put pen to paper, and this is arguable one of his best works. The characters in this story are detailed and realistic, the dialogue outstanding, and the plot complex and compelling, but easy to read. Anyone who is afraid of approaching Zola because of past experience with the 19th century English `greats’ should not be concerned. Zola has none of the pretentiousness or Victorian puritanism of his English contemporaries, and his writing, while often gloomy, is not ponderous. ” Utah Blaine at Amazon
- “This is the most descriptive book on what war really all about that I’ve read, fiction or non-fiction.” James Hamblen at Amazon
We were unable to find English translations and/or summaries and reviews for the following books. You are more than welcome to read them if you can find them!
Contes à Ninon (1864).
La Confession de Claude (1865)
Les Mystères de Marseille (1867)
Madeleine Férat (1868)
La Conquête de Plassans (1874)
Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876)
Une Page d’amour (1878)
Le Roman Experimental (1880)
Le Docteur Pascal (1893)
Les Trois Villes: Lourdes [London] (1894); Rome (1896); Paris (1898)