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This was my first time reading Émile Zola, and boy was it a treat! His writing in Thérèse Raquin is absolutely sublime and compelling, so much so that I could hardly put this book down. The intricate development of each of the characters, from Laurent and Thérèse to Camille and Madame Raquin, as well as the vivid portrayal of 19th century lower-middle class Paris, in this morbid story were exquisite. Zola, much like Dostoevsky in Crime and Punishment, takes readers down into the murky, hellish depths of the human soul in this exploration of adultery, murder and betrayal. Albeit, he uses two main characters (Laurent and Thérèse) as the vehicle for this study of the dark side of human existence.

Despite the fact that I read an English translation of Thérèse Raquin, which may have attenuated to some extent the full effect of Zola’s literary finesse, I could find nothing lacking in his execution of this narrative. Interestingly, in the Preface to the 2nd edition of the novel, it is mentioned that Thérèse Raquin received at the time of its release in the late 1860s a very harsh reception from critics. The novel was in fact considered scandalous which greatly embittered Zola, who felt passionately that his work was misunderstood by critics. More than one hundred and fifty years on Thérèse Raquin has deservedly found its place among the most widely read French literature of the 19th century.

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