Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

This book is in my reading list for 2011, I was supposed to be working my way through the list of 52 books, at least one per week. It started out well but I’ve fallen way behind now.

Anyway, this is a quick read at just 196 pages and my copy of the book is a 1960 paperback. I suspect that there have been better translations since then, that’s the only thing I have against it, the word egotism/egotistic was overused and I’m sure mis-used when something like arrogance or selfishness would have been better I think.

I really enjoyed this book which Zola wrote after he had read Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I wasn’t too keen on Madame Bovary because I really disliked Emma, I couldn’t find any redeeming qualities in her at all.

The book is about adultery, amongst other things, but Theresa has had a tough life really as she was farmed out to her father’s sister as a very small baby. She ends up being married off to her cousin before she knows anything about life and men, and let’s face it – it was never going to be a success given the fact that she had shared a bed with her cousin/husband as a child.

When Therese forms a liason with one of her husband’s work colleagues they take things too far and disaster ensues. The lovers are conscience stricken and racked with guilt they descend into horror.

I know, it doesn’t exactly sound like a barrel of laughs but it is a good read and I’m looking forward to reading the only other Zola book which I have at the moment – Nana, sometime soonish.

8 thoughts on “Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

  1. Haven’t read Nana yet but I’m just generally amazed by Zola — I’ve read both Germinal and La Bete Humaine this year and both of them were unforgettable. La Bete Humaine in particular has some similar themes to Therese Raquin. I know a lot of people start with Therese but I’ve liked most of his books even better! I hope you keep reading Zola.

    • Karen,
      I’m definitely going to be reading more Zola, even although they tend to be chunksters! I can’t imagine that I’ll like one even more than Germinal, but you never know!

  2. I mentioned on Karen’s blog that I don’t think I would like Zola, but now I’m thinking I shouldn’t say that without even trying him! I think I am worried that his books will be too bleak – was that the case with Therese Raquin?

    • Anbolyn,
      His books aren’t as bleak as Thomas Hardy’s, I enjoy Hardy though, especially the rural bits. Therese Raquin is a short book and if you’re not sure about Zola then I think this is the one to start with first. It certainly doesn’t end well but the guilty do get their come-uppance, and I always find that quite cheering!!

        • Anbolyn,
          Oh good! But I hope you won’t be disappointed – no I’m sure you won’t be. The scariest thing about Zola is the thickness of his books – except for Therese Raquin. Germinal is my favourite so far.

  3. I read this years ago, and I plan to read it again next autumn – it’s definitely an autumn book to me – I love Zola’s writing and I’m looking forward to seeing if I view it differently at a different age.

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