Friday, April 09, 2010

The Classics Circuit: Emile Zola

Therese Raquin
Emile Zola

Today I'm pleased to welcome Emile Zola as part of the the Classics Circuit!

For my stop on the Classics tour, I've read Therese Raquin, which has been on my TBR list for years. The tour finally gave me the kick in the pants I needed in order to get this thing done.

And now that I've read it, I can't help but wonder...what took me so long? Because, hands down, Therese Raquin was an INSANE read. INSANE! I was shocked by how graphic and disturbing this short novel was, and I can only imagine how Zola's readers reacted when it was first published almost 150 years ago.

In Therese Raquin, Zola is more concerned with temperament than character. So he combines three different "humors" and allows them to go crazy. There's phlegmatic Camille (who is NOT a girl, despite what my brain kept telling me), who is married to Therese, who is choleric and therefore full of energy. As you might think, Camille + Therese = unhappy marriage. And the two, together with Madame Raquin, Camille's maman, pass day after day after day doing THE SAME FRIGGIN THING over and over and over. LE SIGH.

Why, yes, there IS a cat in Therese Raquin, but sadly he is lacking bacon

Therese is resigned to her life of eternal return with only other "living corpses" to keep her company as her life unwinds.

BUT THEN! Entre Laurent. He's a beast! He's a man! He's pure sex on wheels! (Oh, and he's also sanguine, so he's creative and extroverted and if you really want to know more about humors then just go here). So Therese starts making googly eyes at Laurent and then before you know it THEY'RE HAVING SEX ON THE BEDROOM FLOOR.

Add lots of animal imagery, some plotting, more sex and what the back of my edition describes as "a crime that will haunt them forever" and you have the book in a nutshell.

Again, I was stunned by the graphic nature of Therese Raquin, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fast-paced nature of the plot. While I hated every single one of the characters (with the exception of Madame Raquin, the feisty little minx), I was still able to enjoy the novel -- surely a testament to Monsieur Zola. So thanks again to the the Classics Circuit for giving me reason to get my rear in gear.

In a nutshell: The melodrama! The gruesomeness! The cat! (Vraiment, Laurent?) Therese Raquin is fast enough to be read in a day, yet powerful enough to last a lifetime. (Possibly. It's only been a few days.)

Bibliolatry Scale: 4.5 out of 6 stars

FTCBS: Personal copy over here.


Amanda said...

Okay I have GOT to read this one! I had the same reaction to Germinal as in How come it took me so long to read this??? This sounds fabulous!

Katrina said...

Thanks for the great review. I've just finished Germinal, loved it. That was my first Zola. Therese Raquin next I think.

Teresa said...

"What took me so long?" seems to be the theme of the Zola circuit. I can't believe I never read this. It's like Hitchcock in print, only more graphic!

Rebecca Reid said...

I am so glad you loved it! Wow, what a description.

Mel u said...

Great post-I am currently reading Zola's Nana for a circuit post next week-I am also very struck by how visual the book is-you really feel like you are there