Set in the 1800s and originally written in French, it follows a young woman called Thérèse Raquin who is in the care of her aunt Madame Raquin and forced to marry her sickly cousin Camille. Although she does not object to the marriage, she takes little pleasure from it and her life seems quite bleak. Until she throws herself into an affair with her husband’s friend Laurent, and they soon come to realise that the only thing in the way of their happiness is Camille. They plot to be rid of him.
This is a dark and disturbing book about an unhappy marriage, a turbulent affair and a crime that only leads to paranoia and a slow descent into insanity. It is about adultery, secrets, madness and murder to name a few. The novel highlights the dark side of human nature in a very interesting look into human nature. Zola’s writing is stunning, although it is quite repetitive. I can appreciate it for being extremely well done. The atmosphere that is created is incredible, due to his descriptive writing style and the changes of perspective between Thérèse, Laurent and Madame Raquin mean that we get an in depth look into their thoughts, feelings and fears. These inner revelations of the characters create a amazingly detailed look into their descent into madness.
What really interests me about this books are the characters. You will end disliking all of them. If you do like them, then I would be a little concerned. Despite this, the characters are fascinating. Thérèse has repressed her individuality throughout her childhood, until she seemingly has no interest in life. Yet her reaction when she meets Laurent is one of passion. You just end up very engaged in their story, and so you fly through the book. The psychology of the characters is one of the best thing about this book. The subtle manipulation the characters enact on each other, and their deteriorating state of minds as a consequence of their actions show a dark look into human nature. You don’t necessarily enjoy it or take pleasure from reading it, but you can appreciate the writing and the characters for being incredibly well done.
This was one of those of books that even once you’ve finished it you are still left wondering how you feel about it. It’s not a book that I loved, but I can appreciate Zola’s writing and the characters are very interesting. I would definitely say if you did not like Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, you probably won’t like this book, because the main characters are just as unpleasant as Heathcliff and Cathy. So if you like psychological drama, or you like messed-up, horrible characters then you will probably like this. Overall for me, I enjoyed it, as much as you can enjoy a book such as this. You cannot deny that this novel is very engaging and will have you gripped until the shocking end.
Have you read it? What were your thoughts about it?