Review: Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola

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I wrote a post about how to read Classics, and a reader, Clara Bennet, recommended this little one! Did I like it as much as she hoped?

Therese Raquin is a clinically observed, sinister tale of adultery and murder among the lower orders in nineteenth-century Paris. Zola’s dispassionate dissection of the motivations of his characters, mere `human beasts’ who kill in order to satisfy their lust, is much more than an atmospheric Second Empire period-piece. Many readers were scandalized by an approach to character-drawing which seemed to undermine not only the moral values of a deeply conservative society, but also the whole code of psychological description on which the realist novel was based. Together with the important `Preface to the Second Edition’ in which Zola defended himself against charges of immorality, Therese Raquin stands as a key early manifesto of the French Naturalist movement, of which Zola was the founding father. Even today, this novel has lost none of its power to shock.

I mean, reading that synopsis, how can I not want to read this?!

I got the Oxford World Classics edition, which are my favourite editions for classics. They explain context and if there are words and sayings that aren’t used anymore today, it will explain that in the back of the book. I didn’t need this though, because it was highly accessabel and the language was really easy.

What I was most worried about, was if it would be too rude. I mean, I’m not a person that likes books with a heavy romance undertone. I don’t like reading about sex, I don’t like reading about love, I just don’t like it. I was quite worried about having sex scenes in this book, but I forgot this book was written in the Victorian era, so it isn’t a rude book by any means! If you are worried about this, you are pretty ok with this book!

Now unto the actual story. I really, really, really liked this! It was a bit slow, and it isn’t something like the other stuff I have read, it isn’t as “sensational” as the other Victorian novels I have read, but this is such an interesting book. I couldn’t put it down! It does get pretty graphic towards the murder (this isn’t a spoiler, I mean, it’s in the synopsis!), but that’s about it. It’s really interesting how Zola played with psychology in this book, when I finished it I put the book down and said: “Wow!” about a billion times and had to stare in to the abyss for a while before I could function again. It did give me a book hangover, so you know it’s a good book!

I totally recommend this book if you are into detectives but want to read something different for a change, but still in the murder genre. I loved it, and I’m really glad I read it! Have you read anything by Zola?

I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads and you can get your edition here!

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