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A Few Words on Theresa Raquin by Emile Zola

March 4, 2011

Theresa Raquin by Emile Zola

Theresa Raquin by Émile Zola is a horrifically good book.  The afterword of the book states that Zola was attempting to write a novel expressing divine justice instead of human justice.  He does this very well.  The book is a testament to the worst of human nature.

Theresa Raquin is the story of two lovers Theresa and Laurent who plot and succeed in killing Theresa’s husband.  The book then describes in great detail the emotional and physical effects a successful murder plot has on the couple.  It is a frightening look at the human psyche.  Zola took care with this book and created a wonderful look into what happens when two individuals must live with guilt.  The two protagonists are anything but likable characters.  They are egotistical, remorseless, and lazy.  They are constantly looking for the easy way out and we are shown how this is a folly and what their transgressions lead to.

The imagery and descriptions in this book are intense and vivid.  The images are never light or happy.  Nothing in this story is light hearted.

“And Therese could not find one human being, not one living being among these grotesque and sinister creatures, with whom she was shut up; sometimes she had hallucinations, she imagined herself buried at the bottom of a tomb, in company with mechanical corpses, who, when the strings were pulled, moved their heads, and agitated their legs and arms.”

The characters are very well developed in this novel.  Zola creates a remarkable atmosphere.  There are the two protagonists who are living a life of anguish and pain over their sinister deed.  Then there are the side characters who are often displayed as ignorantly blissful and know nothing of the falsehoods that the reader and the protagonists share.

This book is filled with intense tension and anguish through the characters Theresa and Laurent.  The reader is never certain what the next action these individuals are going to take in their quest to gain freedom from their mental anguish.  It is a tale that has you riveted to the page and Zola writes so well that often the stresses the characters feel are conveyed so strongly that the reader feels them.

Overall Theresa Raquin is not a light and happy novel, but it is still a great and worthy read.  If you are looking for a story that looks into the depths of the worst side of human nature then this is a novel that you should not pass up.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2011 3:53 am

    Sounds like a deeply intense read. I have added it to my list to check ouy. Good review.

  2. March 4, 2011 10:35 am

    Nice review. Seems very appropriate for the Crazy-for-Books hop about villains, as these characters at least sound mildly bad. Thanks for hopping by.

  3. March 5, 2011 11:46 am

    Emile Zola’s one of my favourite writers- I also like ‘Germinal’

  4. March 5, 2011 4:08 pm

    I loved it also. It was compelling reading in the same was that Crime and Punishment was.

    • March 5, 2011 4:22 pm

      I’ve never read Crime and Punishment, but if it as compelling as this book I will definitely pick it up soon.

      • March 5, 2011 4:31 pm

        What I found in both books was that even when I disliked the characters and found their actions and thoughts disgusting, I couldn’t stop reading. Weak, yet driven, that’s me, lol.

      • March 5, 2011 4:36 pm

        Sounds like my type of book. I have Crime and Punishment sitting on my bookshelf just waiting to be picked up and read … I now have motivation 🙂

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