I find it incredible that a book written over years ago could be so enjoyable today. I don't often read classic literature, finding it sometimes to be a struggle, but can honestly say that this entire book was a pleasure to read even if some of the scenes were unbelievably disturbing. The book ultimately recounts the life of Gervaise, a young French woman. We see her climb high and achieve happiness and success, but then witness the downwards spiral of her destruction. But the book isn't solely about Gervaise, as Zola introduces many other characters, whose traits all juxtapose with one another, creating a melting pot of comedy, drama and tension.
He also depicts the most dreadful scenes of poverty and hardship, scenes that are almost unbelievable to imagine living in the luxury of the 21st Century. Zola's talent in slowly building up characters and plot make the book the success it is; he takes his time to describe scenes, for example he spends the whole of Chapter 7 describing Gervaise's great feast. But these lengthy scenes don't hinder the novel in the slightest, instead they give the reader time to slowly and gradually absorb all of the details.
I felt as though I had stepped into the pages of this book. Overall a remarkable piece of writing. This will certainly not be my last novel by Zola. I cannot go a year without re-reading this book - it is for me one of the very best ever written - despite the fact that it is a tragic book, and I generally prefer something rather more heartwarming.
It forms part of Zola's great Rougon-Macquart cycle, wherein he depicts France, by showing characters from the family in a wide range of situations, while at the same time arguing his point about nature and nurture. The herione of this novel, Gervaise, is part of the "weak" Macquart stock - and this should be enough to tell you that all will not end well for her.
L'Assommoir - Wikipedia
The tragedy is that Gervaise really, really wants to succeed on a small scale - to work hard and honestly and have enough to get by - and for the first part of the novel she does so, in a truly admirable fashion. But then circumstances, and her own nature, conspire against her, and Zola takes us with her every step of the way of her fall from prosperous business owner to alcoholic down and out. Utterly compelling, tragic and beautiful.
It is one of the regrets of my life that I do not read French well wnough to read it in the original. By the by, if you like this - do look at Jane Grigson's "Food with the Famous" in which she recreates Gervaise's last high moment - her name day feast - linking recipes to the text. See all 9 reviews. Would you like to see more reviews about this item? Go to Amazon. Unlimited One-Day Delivery and more. There's a problem loading this menu at the moment.
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Verified Purchase. It is a very good and deep picture of a dying Society. I would rather say that Zola pictured the Parisian society as a sick body that needs to evolve; otherwise, It will die. I am impressed by his dark and almost cruel style. L'assommoir is my favorite of the Rougon-Mqcquart cycleby Zol a. I think it's the most palpable of all the novels, giving the greatest sense of life in nineteenth -century Paris. Life was hard and often sad.
Encore une fois bravo! The beadle awaited them in the empty church; he hurried them toward a small chapel, asking them indignantly if they were not ashamed to mock at religion by coming so late. A priest came toward them with an ashen face, faint with hunger, preceded by a boy in a dirty surplice. He hurried through the service, gabbling the Latin phrases with sidelong glances at the bridal party. The bride and bridegroom knelt before the altar in considerable embarrassment, not knowing when it was necessary to kneel and when to stand and not always understanding the gestures made by the clerk.
The witnesses thought it more convenient to stand all the time, while Mamma Coupeau, overcome by her tears again, shed them on a prayer book which she had borrowed from a neighbor.
It was high noon. The last Mass was said, and the church was noisy with the movements of the sacristans, who were putting the chairs in their places. The center altar was being prepared for some fete, for the hammers were heard as the decorations were being nailed up. And in the choking dust raised by the broom of the man who was sweeping the corner of the small altar the priest laid his cold and withered hand on the heads of Gervaise and Coupeau with a sulky air, as if he were uniting them as a mere matter of business or to occupy the time between the two Masses.
When the signatures were again affixed to the register in the vestry and the party stood outside in the sunshine, they had a sensation as if they had been driven at full speed and were glad to rest.
We had no time to cry out before it was all over! Poor Cadet-Cassis! Gervaise kissed her new mother with tears in her eyes but with smiling lips. She answered the old woman gently:. I will do my best to make him happy. If things turn out ill it shall not be my fault.
ISBN 13: 9781975741143
Coupeau now walked with his wife some little distance in advance of the others. They whispered and laughed together and seemed to see neither the people nor the houses nor anything that was going on about them. At the restaurant Coupeau ordered at once some bread and ham; then seeing that Boche and Bibi-la-Grillade were really hungry, he ordered more wine and more meat.
His mother could eat nothing, and Gervaise, who was dying of thirst, drank glass after glass of water barely reddened with wine. The guests began to arrive. Mme Fauconnier, stout and handsome, was the first. She wore a percale gown, ecru ground with bright figures, a rose-colored cravat and a bonnet laden with flowers. Then came Mlle Remanjon in her scanty black dress, which seemed so entirely a part of herself that it was doubtful if she laid it aside at night. The Gaudron household followed. The husband, enormously stout, looked as if his vest would burst at the least movement, and his wife, who was nearly as huge as himself, was dressed in a delicate shade of violet which added to her apparent size.
It was profusely trimmed with fringe, which made her look like a lean dog just coming out of the water. She brandished an umbrella as she talked, as if it had been a walking stick. As she kissed Gervaise she said:. Everybody at once declared they had felt the storm coming all the morning. Three days of extreme heat, someone said, always ended in a gust.
Mme Lorilleux, in fact, was very late. Mme Lerat had called for her, but she had not then begun to dress. They waited another half-hour. The sky was growing blacker and blacker. Clouds of dust were rising along the street, and down came the rain. And it was in the first shower that Mme Lorilleux arrived, out of temper and out of breath, struggling with her umbrella, which she could not close.
I wanted you to wait until next Saturday. I knew it would rain today—I was certain of it! Coupeau tried to calm her, but she quickly snubbed him. Was it he, she would like to know, who was to pay for her dress if it were spoiled? She wore black silk, so tight that the buttonholes were burst out, and it showed white on the shoulders,—while the skirt was so scant that she could not take a long step. She took no notice of Gervaise, who sat by the side of her mother-in-law.
She called to Lorilleux and with his aid carefully wiped every drop of rain from her dress with her handkerchief. Meanwhile the shower ceased abruptly, but the storm was evidently not over, for sharp flashes of lightning darted through the black clouds. Suddenly the rain poured down again. The men stood in front of the door with their hands in their pockets, dismally contemplating the scene.
The women crouched together with their hands over their eyes. They were in such terror they could not talk; when the thunder was heard farther off they all plucked up their spirits and became impatient, but a fine rain was falling that looked interminable. Then Mlle Remanjon timidly observed that the sun perhaps would soon be out, and they might yet go into the country; upon this there was one general shout of derision.
Something must be done, however, to get rid of the time until dinner. Bibi-la-Grillade proposed cards; Mme Lerat suggested storytelling. To each proposition a thousand objections were offered. She had dressed in her best only to be drenched in the rain and to spend the day in a wineshop, it seemed! She had had enough of the whole thing and she would go home. Coupeau and Lorilleux held the door, she exclaiming violently:. Her husband having induced her to listen to reason, Coupeau went to Gervaise, who was calmly conversing with her mother-in-law and Mme Fauconnier. I am very well suited as I am.
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Her face was indeed as sunny as a morning in May. She spoke to everyone kindly and sympathetically. During the storm she had sat with her eyes riveted on the clouds, as if by the light of those lurid flashes she was reading the solemn book of the future. Madinier had proposed nothing; he stood leaning against the counter with a pompous air; he spat upon the ground, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and rolled his eyes about. It is very instructive.
Have any of you been there? They all looked at each other. Gervaise had never even heard of the place, nor had Mme Fauconnier nor Boche. The day was wasted anyway; therefore, if a little instruction could be got it would be well to try it. As the rain was still falling, they borrowed old umbrellas of every imaginable hue from the establishment and started forth for the Musee du Louvre. There were twelve of them, and they walked in couples, Mme Lorilleux with Madinier, to whom she grumbled all the way. My husband has already lent them ten francs, and whoever heard of a bride without a single relation?
She said she had a sister in Paris. Where is she today, I should like to know! She checked herself and pointed to Gervaise, whose lameness was very perceptible as she descended the hill. This epithet was heard by Mme Fauconnier, who took up the cudgels for Gervaise who, she said, was as neat as a pin and worked like a tiger. The wedding party, coming out of La Rue St-Denis, crossed the boulevard under their umbrellas amid the pouring rain, driving here and there among the carriages. The drivers, as they pulled up their horses, shouted to them to look out, with an oath. But it was the hats of the party that were the most amusing, for they were of all heights, sizes and styles.
The shopkeepers on the boulevard crowded to their windows to enjoy the drollery of the sight.
The wedding procession, quite undisturbed by the observation it excited, went gaily on. Finally they reached the Louvre. Here Madinier politely asked permission to take the head of the party; the place was so large, he said, that it was a very easy thing to lose oneself; he knew the prettiest rooms and the things best worth seeing, because he had often been there with an artist, a very intelligent fellow, from whom a great manufacturer of pasteboard boxes bought pictures. The party entered the museum of Assyrian antiquities.
They shivered and walked about, examining the colossal statues, the gods in black marble, strange beasts and monstrosities, half cats and half women. This was not amusing, and an inscription in Phoenician characters appalled them.