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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Story, I Couldn't Put It Down!
Therese Raquin pulled me right into the story. I couldn't put it down, I had to find out what was going to happen next. It was destined to be a classic.
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...
Published on April 24, 2006 by Heather Simmons

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere abounds in this easy read
With enough suspense to keep you reading, this novel is memorable for its understanding of sexual tension and the quirkiness and contrariness of base human feelings when they are given full rein. The characters, none of them especially admirable, more like adults with the personalities of children, play out their destinies against the richly atmospheric underside of 19th...
Published on June 28, 2001 by Ian Muldoon


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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Story, I Couldn't Put It Down!, April 24, 2006
By 
Heather Simmons (Cohutta, GA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Therese Raquin pulled me right into the story. I couldn't put it down, I had to find out what was going to happen next. It was destined to be a classic.
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. Crazy in love with one another, Therese and Laurent murder Camille in order to be together. For more than two years after Camille's murder, They avoid any intimacy with one another in order to not look suspicious. For those two years They are haunted by the memories of that terrible night and seem to be haunted by Camille himself. Convinced that once they are together again the hauntings will stop, Therese makes herself ill. Madam Raquin, still heartbroken over her son's death, becomes concerned. She believes that Therese's illness is cause by her sadness over Camille. She becomes convinced that Therese needs a man and arranges for her to marry Laurent. Finally, Laurent and Therese are together, but the haunting of Camille only gets worse. For many nights the couple is unable to sleep and are unable to go near each other. Their frustration turns into hate and they begin to abuse one another and blame one other for Camille's death. All the while Madam Raquin falls ill and becomes an invaid, unable to speak or move. Therese and Laurent decide to take care of her because having her in the house means they do not have to be alone with one another. Madam Raquin becomes a witness to the horrible abuse that Laurent and Therese do to one another. They accidentally let their secret slip in front of her while having one of their daily fights. Unable to speak or move to tell anyone, she refuses to let herself die until she sees Therese and Laurent pay for what they did.
This story is one worth reading. The tragic story of two people in love, turned against one another in the middle of a plot to be together. Its a true classic and a must read.
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30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Therese Raquin, December 10, 2006
By 
Damian Kelleher (Brisbane, Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
From the opening page, we are aware that this will be a dark work. 'Above the glazed roof the wall rises towards the sky,' writes Zola, 'black and coarsely rendered, as if covered with leprous sores and zigzagged with scars.'

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. Therese accepts the decision, with all that changes of her life being she sleeps in Camille's bed and not her own. All else remains the same.

But soon an idea enters into Camille's head. He has always wanted to work in an office, the idea makes him 'pink with pleasure'. Against his mother's wishes, they move to Paris, where he finds a job working for the railway. Very quickly, life settles for everyone and time, as it does, plods along.

Thursday evenings become a social occasion for the family. Camille invites a colleague from work and his mother, a retired policeman she knew in Vernon, for a weekly game of dominoes. A few others arrive, and another routine is added to that of the Raquin's. Here, Zola is quite clear in his disdain for the evenings, 'After each game the players would argue for two or three minutes, then the dismal silence would descend again, interrupted only by more clicking.'

We are still near the very beginning of the novel. What Zola is doing now is to put all of the pieces into place - much like a game of dominoes - before adding the final character. A well-developed sense of drudgery, boredom and inevitability lies heavily across the text. We can quite comfortably imagine these characters continuing their lives in much the same manner until they are dead, and happily at that. What we do not want is for their life to become our own.

One day, Camille bumps into an old friend, Laurent. Camille invites his friend to Thursday's festivities, an invitation Laurent readily accepts.

When Therese lays eyes upon Laurent, she is floored. He seems, when compared to the colourless Camille, a real man, red-blooded and active. He has passions - he wishes to be a painter. He has emotions - he hates his father. He has desires - he speaks openly of painting naked women, and admiring their curves.

Over time, Laurent and Therese develop a clandestine relationship, meeting and making love under the nose of Camille and Madame Raquin, coming together in Therese' bed. Her husband and mother-in-law are shown to be so docile and unsuspecting that we can fully believe Therese capable of getting away with such activities, in their home.

From what we have read so far, Zola has written a reasonably commonly themed novel. We have the wife who is unappreciated and dreams of a love worthy of her lust; we have the inconsiderate, uncaring husband; we have the oblivious, hyper-affectionate mother. It would be easy to assume that Zola is spinning a fable such that finding and keeping love is more important than remaining within the shackles of a loveless marriage.

But hold on. Zola is far more clever than that. The passion Laurent and Therese share is shown as animalistic and obsessive; theirs is not the pure, passionate love we might expect. Therese declares, 'I love you, I have done since the day Camille first pushed you into the shop. You may not respect me, because I gave myself to you all at once, everything...Truly, I don't know how it happened. I am proud, I'm impetuous too, and I felt like hitting you that first day, when you kissed me and threw me to the floor here in this bedroom...'. But Laurent, too, is equally afflicted with lust, '...the regular satisfaction of his desires had given him sharp, imperative new appetites. He no longer felt the least unease when embracing his mistress, but sought her embrace with the obstinacy of a starving animal.'. Both Lauren and Therese show the negative aspects of secret, furtive lust - they are not in love, they are animals, tethered to one another with chains of desire and deceit.

It becomes clear that Camille must die for their relationship to progress beyond mere lust and into the love that they feel they deserve. He is dispatched with relative haste, and the novel proper begins.

Guilt, remorse and obsession form the remainder of the piece. Zola is clinical in his dissection of his character's psyche. It is as though he has laid out their mind on an operating table, and carefully removes a slice of personality for the purpose of analysis and understanding. No thought, no desire, no regret is left untouched. It is perhaps predictable that they would suffer from guilt following the murder of a man who, while timid and boring, was ultimately good, but Zola makes the focus of the novel something much greater than mere regret. He does not question or lay judgement, rather he presents the thoughts and feelings of these two people as they descend through the psychological depths of what they have done.

The novel is unrelentingly bleak. Chapter after chapter, the characters suffer their hearts and mind being torn apart. Zola slips the word 'insanity' into the text a few times, and we know he is giving us a clear clue. What would happen if two normal people commit an abnormal, horrible act? Zola pushes the limit of our understanding as far as he is able.

The peripheral characters exist to further the darkness of Laurent and Therese. It is quite clear that their function is to serve the primary characters, and not to exist as people in their own right. Perhaps with a lesser author this would be a problem, but because Zola possesses such psychological acuteness, we allow it. The Thursday night domino games continue, purely because the unending stretch of sameness is precisely what is tearing the lovers apart. They becomes married so that Zola can show us that when the price for our desire is too great, we no longer wish to possess it. And so on, and so on. They fall in and out of debauchery, violence, hatred, remorse and guilt, all so that Zola can analyse the workings of two minds that were once normal, but have become diseased.

Moving away from the psychological aspects of the novel for a moment, it is worth mentioning that Zola also has a tremendous gift for description and mood. Throughout the nineteenth century, Paris boasted a morgue, which was open to the public for inspection. On rows of gray slabs lay the bodies of the recently deceased, with a wall of clear glass separating the living and the dead. There was no such thing as refrigeration at the time, so as the days progressed, the bodies would putrefy and rot as they waited to be identified. Laurent, at an early stage of his guilt, visits the morgue daily, waiting to see Camille's drowned corpse. And when he does, Zola provides us with this breathtaking description, 'Camille was a revolting sight. He had been in the way for a fortnight. His face still looked firm and stiff; his features had been preserved, only the skin had taken on a yellowish, muddy hue. The head, thin, bony, and slightly puffy, was grimacing; it was at a slight angle, the hair was plastered against the temples, and the eyelids were up, revealing the globular whites of the eyes; the lips were twisted down at one corner in a horrible sneer; the blackish tip of the tongue was poking out between the white teeth.' And on it continues. Macabre? Certainly. But Zola's eye for description makes this a powerful scene.

Therese Raquin is a short novel. There is no space for side plots, or avenues of digression. According to Zola, 'I simply carried out on two living bodies the same examination that surgeons perform on corpses.' What we have is an exploration of the darker parts of our psyche in brevity, a bleak early masterpiece.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Atmosphere abounds in this easy read, June 28, 2001
By 
Ian Muldoon (Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
With enough suspense to keep you reading, this novel is memorable for its understanding of sexual tension and the quirkiness and contrariness of base human feelings when they are given full rein. The characters, none of them especially admirable, more like adults with the personalities of children, play out their destinies against the richly atmospheric underside of 19th century Paris. There is a certain satisfying relish in the way in which Zola plunges his characters into what will prove to be their personal hell. On Therese and her afternoons spent in adulterous sexual abandonment" She recalled every detail of the afternoon's wild passion and dwelt on them one by one in her memory, contrasting that thrilling orgy with the dead-and-alive scene before her eyes (regular Thursday evening get togethers with friends of her mother-in-law and husband)..how happy she was to deceive them with such triumphant impudence". The mother of the victim, Madame Raquin, had believed in her daughter-in-law and new "son" as the epitome of devoted and caring "children", but had seen her vision of life reduced to nothing more than "murder and lust". The use by Zola of the red scar on the neck of the murderer Laurent is a simple but effective and memorable image. Vivid, lurid, it's fun time in Zola land! A good read for that plane flight.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, September 15, 1998
By A Customer
I wanted to read love story which does not have happy ending. So I picked Zola's "Therese Raquin". It is a story of a woman, orphaned since her childhood, raised by her aunt and eventually married to her sickly cousin. Therese lives quiet live full of suppresion: sexual, monetary and intellectual. The first time she feels alive is when she manages to have wild extra marital affair with her husband's handsome, well-built, scheming office friend. Where Therese sees lust and love, her lover, Laurent, sees convenience: mistress he does not need to spend money on and can visit when it suits him. This brutal affair eventually ends with murder, mutual hate between Therese and Laurent and eventually suicide. Zola's storytelling is compelling. Book is a page turner, no matter how you feel about the events it describes. And even though one can expect tragic end, the magnitude of it is enourmous and leaves one stunned for quite some time...
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Quite Perfect, but Very, Very Good, March 2, 2002
By A Customer
Therese Raquin is a tale of adultery, murder and madness, but even though it encompasses such emotional issues, it is a novel strangely devoid of emotion. Zola, himself, said he wanted to write a "scientific" book about people with no free will.
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.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bold and full of suspense, July 9, 2004
By 
"jazzy_baby" (Montreal, Quebec) - See all my reviews
"Therese Raquin" has all the right ingredients where living terror tales are made up of. Comprised of characters of freakish nature (sicky pale, childish, pasty face husband, the kind but naive doting mother, the cruel and good for nothing handsome lover, the plain, boring ugly uninspiring neighbours and of course the dangerously oppressed Therese herself)and their gray depressing surroundings, Zola describes the realistic scene of the poor in France. In the story, a young woman who has to endure a socially/mentally deprived environment in her husband and mother in law's house begins an affair with her husband's childhood friend. Frustrated at their slim chance of a better future, both decide to kill Therese's husband to pursue their happiness together. But is the poor man really dead? Or isn't he..... Ironic, full of suspense, shocking psychology and ugly side of human psychics, Zola has managed to link each of complex human emotion with psychological terror into his tale. If you think this is another simple tale of adultery, you're definitely missing out a lot. Treat yourself to a night of terror and give this a chance!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A MUST READ, December 3, 2001
THERESE RACQUIN IS A STORY OF ILLICIT LOVE AND REVENGE. IT IS ALSO A GHOST STORY. IF YOU LIKE VERY DRAMATIC WRITING SUPER CHARGED WITH HIGH-EMOTION, READ THIS BOOK BY ZOLA.
IT IS THE STORY OF A YOUNG MARRIED WOMAN, THERESE, ESSENTIALLY EMOTIONALLY DEAD WHO FALLS IN LOVE WITH A FRIEND OF HER HUSBAND NAMED LAURENT. SHE HAS NO FEELINGS AT ALL FOR HER HUSBAND, BUT THE SEXUAL LOVE AFFAIR BETWEEN HER AND HIS FRIEND BECOMES SO INTENSE AND OUT OF CONTROL THAT THE PAIR TALK OF MURDERING THE HUSBAND SO THEY CAN MARRY.
LAURENT, THE LOVER, BECOMES ALMOST A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY - THERESA, HER MOTHER AND HUSBAND. THEY ALL LOVE HIM, EVEN AS THERESA IS CARRYING ON A WILD AFFAIR WITH HIM. THE LOVE-SEXUAL AFFAIR IS DESCRIBED BREATHTAKILGLY - AS ONLY ZOLA CAN DO.
THEN, LAURENT MURDERS CAMILLE, THE HUSBAND. FROM THIS POINT ON, THE BOOK DEALS WITH THE CHANGING RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THERESA, LAURENT AND THE MOTHER. THIS IS ALSO DESCRIBED IN HIGHLY CHARGED WRITING, QUITE DRAMATIC, AND IS A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY OF THESE THREE PEOPLE WITH A MURDER BETWEEN THEM.
I RATE THIS BOOK AS A MUST READ. CURRENTLY THIS BOOK IS THE BASIS FOR A BROADWAY MUSICAL "THOU SHALT NOT."
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a book you won't want to put down, November 13, 1998
Therese raquin was an enchanting, marvelous look at the relationship between two people who confuse lust for love. Not only will the book make you cry, but you will be frightened at the fear, and the shock Zola is able to instill in his readers...a great book.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Young Zola's first step into the spotlight..., October 27, 2009
By 
JoeyD (los gatos, ca) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Zola's first published work of fiction, "Therese Raquin" not only established the young artist as a name to be reckoned with, it also proved to be quite a harbinger of what was to further come from that prurient pen of his. This is where it all began folks, so if you are a true fan of Zola or the French Classics, then you definitely need to give this one a gander. I am glad that I did, and have no reservations about recommending it to the rest of you fan's out there. Like just about all of his great work, this one is seedy, dark, and more often than not - very disturbing. The father of Naturalism was just getting his feet wet in the sewer waters of the late 19th century Parisian world and this was his first audacious step.

"Therese Raquin" is a short, sordid, somber saga about two lovers and their descent into madness resulting from their repulsive past sins of betrayal, adultery, and murder. Like Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, these two perverse protagonists (aren't they almost always repulsive in a Zola classic?) can escape the law, but not their own consciences. Zola lets us all be voyeurs into the psychosis of these two doomed demons as they slowly but surely unravel upon each page turned. Sure it's dark and depressing, but then again, it's Zola - an artist who pulled no punches, and who was always honest, brave, and insightful.

Again, this one is worth a peek. Emile at times can be a bit repetitive and verbose, and his character's portraits can sometimes possess tad bits of contradictions here and there for the most discerning of you literary buffs, but overall this is one hell of an absorbing read and tough to put down. It's a melodramatic horror story that definitely packs a punch and doesn't quite leave you alone once you are through with it.

A great translation and intro from Robin Buss but please make sure to read the intro AFTER you are done with the novel in order to avoid any spoilers. I sincerely hope you enjoy this one as much as I did.
4.4 Stars!
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, June 15, 2005
***Spoilers** Therese Raquin is the story of a bored woman who, in tandem with her lover, drowns her milksoppy husband and must suffer the moral consequences of doing so. Zola's psychologically astute novel gives a realistic account of the hallucinations and hauntings that result from the murder. Mme. Raquin, paralyzed and made mute by a stroke, must silently abide her son's murderers. She provides the book's greatest horror, but also its satisfying conclusion, as she watches the two come to a fate worse than the guillotine. This is the first Zola book I've read, and it was good enough for me to consider starting his dauntingly large Rougon-Macquart cycle.

Sidenote: I read the recent translation, which I advise other readers to avoid. I compared it to a 60's edition and found the more recent translation to be flat. Also, the translator couldn't decide whether to use the footnotes to provide historical perspective or literary interpretation. The footnotes also unnecessarily appear mid-sentence, instead of at the end of sentences, which I found to be distracting.
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Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics)
Therese Raquin (Penguin Classics) by Emile Zola (Paperback - February 22, 2005)
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