The Drinking Den, Paperback
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)

Description

Previously published as L'assommoir (The Dram Shop), Emile Zola's The Drinking Den is an unflinching study of a desperate young woman struggling against the ravages of vice.

This Penguin Classics edition is translated from the French with an introduction by Robin Buss. Abandoned by her lover and left to bring up their two children alone, Gervaise Macquart has to fight to earn an honest living.

When she accepts the marriage proposal of Monsieur Coupeau, it seems as though she is on the path to a decent, respectable life at last.

But with her husband's drinking and the unexpected appearance of a figure from her past, Gervaise's plans begin to unravel tragically.

The Drinking Den caused a sensation when it was first published, with its gritty depiction of the poverty and squalor, slums and drinking houses of the Parisian underclass.

The seventh novel in Zola's great Rougon-Macquart cycle, it was the work that made his reputation. And, in his moving portrayal of Gervaise's struggle for happiness, Zola created one of the most sympathetic heroines in nineteenth-century literature. Robin Buss's translation renders Zola's street argot into clear, contemporary English. This edition also includes an introduction discussing Zola's Naturalistic method, with maps of Paris, Zola's preface responding to his critics, notes, a chronology and further reading. Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction.

His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels which Zola wrote over a period of 22 years, including Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), The Beast Within (1890), Nana (1880), and The Drinking Den (1877). If you enjoyed The Drinking Den, you might like Zola's The Beast Within, also available in Penguin Classics.

Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780140449549

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Reviews

Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by
4

Grim book, also known as L'Assamoir. Lower class Parisian life--all ruined by brutality brought on, in large part, by alcoholism. Gervaise is the heroine. For a time she seems the bright light who will escape through work and inner fortitude, but she succumbs as well. Pathetic child of a neighbor (drunken, of course) is beaten to death by her father.Read July 2009

Review by
5

I used to think that Bernard Malamud's The Fixer was the most relentlessly bleak and depressing book because it went from bad to worse to much worse over the course of the novel. But L'Assommoir (translated here as The Drinking Den) beats it because it has short interludes of slightly better that make the overall trend that much more painful. It is a little didactic and mono-thematic (drinking is bad for poor people, really really bad), but it centers around one extraordinary character (Gervaise Coupeau), has smaller parts for two extraordinary girls (her daughter Nana who becomes a prostitute at age 15 and her next door neighbor Lalie, who watches her mother get beaten to death by her alcoholic father and eventually succumbs to the same fate herself), and has some amazing set-pieces, including a trip to the Louvre by Gervaise's wedding party and what must be one of the most memorably described dinner parties in literature.L'Assommoir does not have anything resembling the range of Dickens, the depth of Hugo or Tolstoy, or the peripatetic energy of Balzac. But it does hit its theme effectively and relentlessly to create something that must have been an eye-opening read at the time and still feels revelatory.

Review by
5

I used to think that Bernard Malamud's The Fixer was the most relentlessly bleak and depressing book because it went from bad to worse to much worse over the course of the novel. But L'Assommoir (translated here as The Drinking Den) beats it because it has short interludes of slightly better that make the overall trend that much more painful. It is a little didactic and mono-thematic (drinking is bad for poor people, really really bad), but it centers around one extraordinary character (Gervaise Coupeau), has smaller parts for two extraordinary girls (her daughter Nana who becomes a prostitute at age 15 and her next door neighbor Lalie, who watches her mother get beaten to death by her alcoholic father and eventually succumbs to the same fate herself), and has some amazing set-pieces, including a trip to the Louvre by Gervaise's wedding party and what must be one of the most memorably described dinner parties in literature.<br/><br/>L'Assommoir does not have anything resembling the range of Dickens, the depth of Hugo or Tolstoy, or the peripatetic energy of Balzac. But it does hit its theme effectively and relentlessly to create something that must have been an eye-opening read at the time and still feels revelatory.

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