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Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics) Paperback – February 22, 2005
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A small household is described. We have Camille, a sickly, mothered, placid boy. As he becomes older, his mother's protective nature remains as strong as it was when he was a child. He is plied with medicines and 'adoring devotion', such that 'His growth had been stunted, so that he remained small and sickly looking; the movement of his skinny limbs were slow and tired.' Camille is presented as a wholly unattractive young man, with his ignorance 'just one more weakness in him.'
And then we have Therese Raquin. She was given to Camille's mother by his uncle when she was two, and has remained in Madame Raquin's household ever since. Therese has suffered the medicinal ministrations of Camille's mother, and because of this, has developed a quiet, introspective, intense demeanour. 'she developed a habit of speaking in an undertone, walking about the house without making any noise, and sitting silent and motionless on a chair with a vacant look in her eyes.'
This is an unhappy household. Or, perhaps, because everyone is so concerned with repressing any spark of feeling or emotion, it is a dead house that just happens to still be living. Camille is too ignorant and sick to have a personality beyond the studied egotism of a man who has grown up with a dominating, too-concerned mother, while Therese is a blank piece of paper, purposely unwritten upon. When her twenty-first birthday arrives, Madame Raquin informs Therese that she is to marry Camille.Read more ›
The story is about a young woman named Therese Raquin, who is unhappily married to her sickly, weak cousin Camille. As a child Therese was adopted by Madam Raquin. Camille was her sick son, who she kept close watch over and spoiled with home-made medicines and warm blankets. Camille was always fond of Therese and insisted that she take the medicne before he did (Even though she was never sick). Madam Raquin decided to arrange for the two to one day marry because she feared that there would be no one to take care of Camille once she was gone. Therese and Camille wed once they were 21. Madam Raquin owned a shop that Therese helped her run, and Camille insisted on taking a job as a clerk because he was bored with staying at home. One day Camille ran into his old friend from childhood, Laurent. Laurent is a strong, handsom man, unlike Camille who is small, puny, and and ugly. Therese is immediatley infatuated with Laurent and soon falls in love with him. Laurent is a lazy ladiesman who has landed a job as a clerk at the same company as Camille after failing as an artist. Laurent finds Therese to be ugly and boring because of her constant silence, but he yearns for the company of a woman and sees Therese as an easy woman for him to seduce. He decides to become her lover right under Camille's nose. Madam Raquin considers Laurent a son, Camille considers him a brother, and Therese is crazy about him, so he has no problems arranging meetings for he and Therese to spend a few hours together. Laurent becomes amazed by Therese's lively spirit and activity in the bedroom and quickly falls under her spell.Read more ›
Therese Raquin does have its poetic moments. This is not surprising since Zola, himself, was a poet and parttime art critic. The details of Camille's portrait, in particular, are extremely descriptive, as is the dismal dankness of the shop in the Passage de Pont Neuf. In fact, it is the things in this book, particularly the scar on Laurent's neck, that seem to take on a life of their own, independent of the characters involved.
Although Zola wanted Therese Raquin to be a book of "scientific precision," he often slipped into rather vague and repetitive writing. Many times Zola writes, "une vague sensation de..." or "une sorte de vague impression de...." Why didn't Zola choose to use the more precise noun or adjective instead?
The vagueness that plagues the first two/thirds of this book gives way to high melodrama in the final one/third. The madness and horror that characterize Therese and Laurent is, at first, beautifully graded, however during the last chapters, Zola seems to have gotten carried away with himself, for he piles one horrific superlative on another.
Despite the criticism above, Therese Raquin remains an outstanding tale of sin, murder and madness. The claustrophobic atmosphere in which it is told only adds to the book's nightmarish qulitity. That Zola could accomplish so much with so few characters is definitely a major feat.
Therese Raquin is definitely a 19th century tale and definitely an interior one. Although not perfect, it's still better than ninety percent of the books you'll ever read. I enjoyed this book immensely and I hope you will, too.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Zola's characters are twisted and tortured by unimaginable horrors within the narrow confines of a very small world which they cannot escape. Read morePublished 29 days ago by FunnySmartHappy
It's linked to the play version of the novel, yet it's not the play version. What a waste of time.Published 1 month ago by Ashley blanco
Just dull. Almost fell asleep a couple of times but managed to get through it.
Spend your time on something else.
It's an abridged version and doesn't always hang together.Published 3 months ago by Marilyn H. Murray
Folks, this is literature! It's sensual, mysterious, gorgeous.Published 5 months ago by Sharon Miller
High adventure. I got the audio tape and it kept me in suspense the whole time.Published 6 months ago by Rosaleen Johnson
One of my favorite books. Kate Winslet does an excellent narration of Tancock's 1962 translation. 100/100.Published 6 months ago by Allen
This review is for the audio version of the fabulous Emile Zola's "Therese Raquin" novel as narrated by Kate Winslet. One of the best audio books I've ever listened to. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer