“Therese Raquin’ is a clinically observed, sinister tale of adultery and murder among the lower orders in nineteenth-century Paris. Zola’s dispassionate dissection of the motivations of his characters, mere ‘human beasts’ who kill in order to satisfy their lust, is much more than an atmospheric Second Empire period-piece.”


This is a story of a young girl, whose mother has died and was brought by her father to be raised by her aunt, he eventually dies as well. It’s a dismal childhood as she becomes a constant companion to her cousin who is a sickly lad and over-indulged by his mother.

The first years of her life are decided by Madame Raquin, the mother who plans that the first cousins will marry…which they do, then it falls to the son who decides they will decamp to Paris and while he works, his mother and Therese will set up shop on Pont Neuf and operate a mercer. At this point of the work the novel feels somewhat benign and Therese appears like a tragic character and to be pitied but Zola has other plans. It explodes on the reader and I found myself totally engaged in all the drama and violence until the final climatic moments.


Reviewed by:

Diana Long

Added 20th March 2020

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Diana Long