By Emile Zola, Peter Collier (translator),

Book cover of Germinal

Book description

Zola's masterpiece of working life, Germinal (1885), exposes the inhuman conditions of miners in northern France in the 1860s. By Zola's death in 1902 it had come to symbolise the call for freedom from oppression so forcefully that the crowd which gathered at his State funeral chanted 'Germinal! Germinal!'.

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Why read it?

3 authors picked Germinal as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

This is a powerful book that immediately draws readers inside the world of French coal miners and their families. 

The sense of struggle and hopelessness is palpable throughout as the characters are figuratively and sometimes literally trapped both inside the mines and in their ramshackle homes. The central event in the book is a miners’ strike led by the main character, Étienne Lautier, that becomes violent, divisive, and ultimately tragic. 

Zola did an enormous amount of research on mining and miners to carefully recapture both the physical and emotional environment. Readers will learn a great deal about an unfamiliar world…

No glitter here. Though Germinal takes place in the 186os, it was written in 1884, and Gilded Age sensibilities haunt this tale of the crushing lives of French coal miners whose labor, hardships, and deaths fuel the excesses of Gilded Age lives. Zola’s masterpiece, with several movie adaptations to choose from.

Zola is another novelist whose work is firmly rooted in the real world and in the concept, increasingly relevant today, of the gross unfairness of social inequality. I can't think of a single one of his novels that I haven't been gripped by, but again, I think this is his masterpiece: the depictions of the miners and their lives juxtaposed with those of the mine–owners are excoriating. Like another favourite of mine, The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Zola explores the torture of the lives of the oppressed and exploited in a way that has never yet been equalled. In this…

From Anton's list on the best I have read so far.

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