I've promised myself a regular return to Emile Zola after such an enjoyable read of The Ladies' Paradise so Therese Raquin was my next choice and what a choice it was.
I think there is something utterly readable and uncomplicated about Zola's writing, anyone could read it and need not feel daunted by the idea that it's a classic and might therefore be inaccessible, tricky or obscure.
Heaven alone knows how much this book must have shocked in 1867 because it certainly still retains that power today."Murder and adultery among the lower orders".
Stiffen the old sinews for one of the most realistic visits to a morgue you are ever likely to read in print, don't read it over a breakfast fry up.Knowing how diligent Zola was about his research you can assume he will have spent hours in the place taking notes.
It's hopelessly tragic and you sense that from the off there will no escape,the ending is almost inevitable but no less shocking.
Always pushing the boundaries and his contemporaries hated him for it by all accounts, here's Zola's spirited response
"The critics have given this book a hostile and indignant reception. Certain righteous individuals, writing in no less righteous newspapers, have picked it up between thumb and forefinger, screwed up their faces in disgust, and thrown it on the fire...I am charmed to observe that my fellow-writers have the sensitive nerves of young girls"
Convinced that they had misunderstood the novel, Zola was more bothered that they were trashing Therese Raquin for all the wrong reasons
"Nothing is more irritating than to hear honest writers loudly denouncing depravity when one is firmly persuaded they are doing so without knowing what it is they are calling depraved".
The introductory notes in my Oxford World Classics edition and Zola's own preface make fascinating additional reading to this book and whet the appetite for a much more in depth study of Emile Zola's life and writing.
I must also mention the cover here, La Tricoteuse by Xavier Mellery.For me it was that constant grey reminder of the knitting needles clicking alongside the guillotine every time I picked the book up, and look closely, is she knitting socks?
There are layers and layers in Therese Raquin all waiting to be peeled back, like layers of skin really, but I'll stop there and let you read the book to find that out for yourself if you can bear it.
An interesting visit to Paris coming up in an hour or two.