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Therese Raquin [Apr. 11th, 2008|10:32 am]
Tony Grist

Social realism and the gothic: these are the two main modes of the 19th century novel. Tolstoy is predominantly social realist, Emily Bronte is predominantly gothic and  Dickens whips the two together to achieve a more or less satisfactory blend.  Zola seems to want to be a social realist. We will tour his laboratory with him and he'll show us some very interesting things he's been culturing in petrie dishes. That's how this very odd book begins. We feel we're going to learn about the criminal mind. And then- about halfway through- there's a shift of tone and we find ourselves involved in a full-blooded melodrama of supernatural revenge. It's as if Simenon had handed over to Stephen King. The white-coated scientist is still droning away in the background, rationalising the goings-on, but we don't believe him anymore, because we're dealing with walking corpses and telepathy and possession and the Lord knows what. 

Therese Raquin is a powerful book. Horrific. It makes you flinch. But If ever a writer lost control of his material it happened here. 


[User Picture]From: serennos
2008-04-11 11:15 am (UTC)
If ever a writer lost control of his material it happened here.

Is this a good thing? You were making me want to read it until here!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-11 11:39 am (UTC)
I think it's just a fact about the book. Value-neutral. Zola set out to write one kind of novel and ended up writing something else.

I found the change of tone disconcerting, but it didn't make me want to stop reading. It's a very remarkable and exciting book- a page turner.

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[User Picture]From: wyrmwwd
2008-04-11 05:34 pm (UTC)
Sounds like my kind of book!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-11 05:55 pm (UTC)
I don't think you'll be disappointed.
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[User Picture]From: veronica_milvus
2008-04-11 06:22 pm (UTC)
I read "Germinal" at University. I got profoundly depressed. Second only to Dostoyevsky for wrist-slitting hopelessness.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-11 09:26 pm (UTC)
I loved Dostoevsky as a teen. I keep wondering whether I should revisit him, and then I think, naaaaah; once is enough.
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[User Picture]From: ibid
2008-04-11 07:19 pm (UTC)
I remember reading he had in mind an quasi biological text (it's been a while since I read it but I remember the descriptions of Therese crouching like a wild beast).
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2008-04-11 09:41 pm (UTC)
That's right; he keeps talking about them as if they were animals. It's a chilly book.
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