L'Assommoir

By Émile Zola, Brian Nelson (translator), Robert Lethbridge (editor)

Book cover of L'Assommoir

Book description

b 'in this life, even if you don't ask for much you still end up with bugger all!' /b

In a run-down quarter of Paris, Gervaise Macquart struggles to earn a living and support her family. She earns a pittance washing other people's dirty clothes in the local washhouse, and…

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Why read it?

1 author picked L'Assommoir as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

I read this book many years ago, and it’s never left me. This was my first exposure in literature to the harsh lives some people must live. It seems a bit strange to me that it was a French novel published in 1877 that opened my eyes, but there you are.

You can feel the sweat, exhaustion, and desperation of this fated Parisian laundress, Gervaise, as she tries to rise above her situation, only to be tragically brought down by the men in her life. Zola’s writing is often categorized as naturalism, but I think "truth" is more accurate.

From Richard's list on 19th century French novels.

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