Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Zoladdiction - Week Two Thoughts

Reflections on Germinal

I finished Germinal a couple of days ago and I am still reeling from the denouement. I don't really feel like starting another book at the moment, but as I am taking part in a challenge I shall press on!

The last one hundred pages, or so, found me on the edge of my seat with my mouth agape and a fair few tears springing to my eyes. I don't want to include any spoilers as, perhaps, someone who is planning to read Germinal will read this and feel cheated.

The parts of the novel which particularly captivated me were the references to the French Revolution: I noticed three (Cecile offering La Maheude's children brioche which instantly brought the famous fiction of Marie Antoinette saying, "Let them eat cake!" to mind; the striking miners' shouts of "bread, bread, we want bread"; and also the singing of the Marseillaise) although I am sure someone with more knowledge of that period would pick up many more references. I also really liked the development of the relationship between the children Lydie and Bebert (I don't think I shall ever forget their final scene) and I was drawn in by the pathetic lives and fates of all of the animals in the book.

After reading the book I had a look for a film version on the internet. I found the 1992 French production with Gerard Depardieu and Renaud on YouTube, although it has been dubbed into Spanish. Even though the film is long (two and a half hours), certain elements are not included which I felt changed the feel of the story - the miners seemed idealised as if the story had been given the Hollywood glow, for example, Jeanlin's character was not developed fully - nevertheless it is a very enjoyable film.

An Afternoon in London

Foyles on Charing Cross Road
I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours in London yesterday afternoon. I planned a varied itinerary of library visits and a trip to my favourite London bookshop to pick up Zola's The Masterpiece, which I reserved prior to my visit. Of course, just a couple of hours in a large, busy city is not really much time at all, and after an airless, itchy-sheet night in a hotel I didn't have the energy to carry out all my plans. I decided to focus on my bookshop trip and try to get a bit of reading done.

I haven't visited Foyles in about ten years, but it is still as well-stocked and fun to browse in as I remember. The store now houses one of my favourite specialist bookshops, the language bookshop - Grant and Cutler. I didn't realise until I looked at the Foyles website that they had moved from their home on Great Marlborough Street. Although, I used to love their cluttered, floor-to-ceiling shelves and the fact that the further you went in the darker it got like some kind of treasure cave, their new space on the first floor of Foyles is, perhaps, easier to browse. As I was just browsing for fun and not requiring a particular text or any assistance, I can't comment on how their service may have changed since the move to Foyles.

The cover art of some of the French editions of Zola's work stocked by Grant and Cutler
After collecting my new Zola book, I picked up a coffee and headed off to the British Museum. Yesterday was the first time this year that I actually felt warm walking around, so I sat outside the museum to drink my coffee and start The Masterpiece. Sitting, soaking up the warmth of the sun reflected off the Portland stone of the museum created a contrast between the dark, stormy night in Paris that begins Zola's novel. I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get into another novel for a while, after Germinal, but The Masterpiece seems like it is going to be very interesting too and I am already intrigued by the personality of Claude Lantier.
The Masterpiece at the British Museum


  1. Lydia and Bebert relationship was very touching, I nearly cried. Their lives were broken from the very beginning by the corrupt atmosphere of the town, and the stake made it even worse, stealing and everything, but somehow they maintained the ability to feel something towards each other, and this is very reassuring.

    Now that you mentioned the film I'll probably go find it too, I'm really interested how they put this to the screen.

  2. I have to admit that I did actually cry at that part of the novel. Lydie and Bebert were my favourite characters. I

  3. Awww.... I envy you! It's hard to find a cozy place to read books in public, here in my place. So, I gotta read at home, at work, or on the way to both, full of distraction.

    Thanks, by the way, for the Germinal movie reference. Germinal is always my favorite, now La Bete Humaine being no. 2. The Masterpiece is also interesting, especially with Zola's vivid and beautiful description of the nature.

  4. I'm not particularly good at reading in public places, I find it too distracting and I can't read in cafes as they usually play music and I can't focus on my reading then.

    Hope you enjoy the film if you manage to see it.