Sunday, July 31, 2016

161. L'Assommoir

L'Assommoir
The Drunkard
Emile Zola
1877
Around 400 pages












Once again, I hang my head in shame for being away for so long.  I always reread my favorite series every summer.  I have also been cheating on the List a lot.  It's not my fault that the Zola collection at my library sucks.  Anyway, I finally got around to reading this one on my iPad.  While it certainly wasn't terrible, it was definitely a downgrade from Therese Raquin.

Gervaise is abandoned by her drunk and abusive lover, Lantier, leaving her with two young sons and almost no money.  She marries Coupeau, a roofing engineer, and they have a daughter named Nana (uh oh. I can see where this is going).  Gervaise opens her own laundry and all seems right in the world.  That is, until Coupeau falls off one of the roofs he was working on.  During his recovery, he begins to drink and loses all desire to ever work again.   Lantier returns and Coupeau invites him to stay with them because...um...alcoholics be crazy?

I read that this book was taken up by temperance workers across the world as an example of the dangers of alcoholism.  It is easy to see why.  According to this novel, if men get a drop of alcohol in their systems, they start kicking their wives to death.  Apparently Zola claimed his novel was more than just a teetotaler's wet dream.  I suppose you could argue that Gervaise's pride was just as destructive as Coupeau's alcoholism.  Still, it was a bit heavy handed for my taste.  I mean, did we really need to hear about Gervaise's drunk neighbor beating his wife and daughter to death? We could all save some time by just watching The Lost Weekend instead.

It became clear within the first ten pages what direction this novel was headed in, making for a rather predictable experience.  In any case, it's Zola, which means it's well written.  Still, after Therese Raquin I was hoping for a bit more depth.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The title refers to shops that sell cheap liquor, enabling the working class to drown their sorrows.  The shops were popular in late nineteenth century Paris.

UP NEXT: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  I have already read this, so you don't have to expect a three month gap until the next post.

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