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L'Assommoir (The Drinking Den, or Dram Shop) (Les Rougon-Macquart, #7)
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L'Assommoir (The Drinking Den, or Dram Shop) (Les Rougon-Macquart #7)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  5,732 ratings  ·  212 reviews
Widely acknowledged as one of Emile Zola's masterpieces, "L'Assommoir" is a novel immersed in the harsh poverty and relief-giving alcoholism of working-class Paris in the nineteenth century. At the heart of Zola's shockingly realistic descriptions is Gervaise, a mother abandoned by her lover who must learn to survive alone on what she can earn. When she marries the abstemi...more
Paperback, 148 pages
Published January 1st 2009 by Digireads.com (first published 1877)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I honestly believe this may be the most depressing novel I have ever read. It has been a long time since I've (if I've ever) so excessively cringed, tensed up, sighed from such unadulterated frustration, and chewed the insides of my mouth from stress while reading about imaginary people. Last time I can remember my eyes popping out of my head anywhere near as cartoonishly from a fiction as Zola has managed here would probably be the first time I watched Requie...more
Alex
Don't actually remember when I read this, it was sometime just after college. I had read Nana for a class and needed to follow it up. As I write this blurb I'm belatedly following up L'Assommoir with Germinal. You really can't lose with Zola. Unless you're one of his characters, in which case you'll probably lose everything. To the bourgeoisie. And then you'll die. Probably of a terrible affliction.
MJ Nicholls
Whenever I think I had a rough upbringing I read a book like this and realise I am a fluffed little pillow of good fortune. I was raised in a council tenement in a backwater semi-village in Central Scotland amid a backdrop of Protestant activism and spinster gossiping. But compared to Zola’s Paris in L’Assommoir, I was mollycoddled in a warm nook of familial love and warmth.

So: Gervaise is hardworking laundress whose life is blown to smithereens by rotten good-for-nothing beer-sodden bastard men...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
Arrogant 21st century reader, take hold of this book, more than a hundred years old, and suffer a humiliation like I did. Sure, you have read all types, and there isn't a book of note that isn't in your library or kindle. You feel nothing can surprise you anymore. Plots are all predictably the same. A character is introduced and you know, more or less, what the author will do to him after a hundred or so pages. A character who is innately good, and who suffers a lot, will triumph in the end. Or...more
Jenn(ifer)
Feb 28, 2013 Jenn(ifer) marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Okay, so I'm throwing in the towel. This book is probably on the precipice of greatness, but I just don't give a f*ck. When you find yourself yawning through pages and pages of narration, skimming and sighing and rolling your eyes, it's time to cut the cord. It's not outside the realm of possibility that one day I'll find myself wanting to revisit Gervaise, maybe when I'm old and incontinent, biding my time in a nursing home waiting for death to take me. When I'm so bored of playing bingo and wa...more
Capsguy
There is no hope...

You thought you've read bleak, especially if you're acquainted with Zola, but until you read L'Assommoir you don't know anything. This hit me harder than The Book of Disquiet did by Pessoa.

No one is spared in this novel, those who escape death are left destitute or soulless. There is a glimmer of hope for some characters, but that's squashed if you're well acquainted with the Rougon-Macquart series, in which many characters in L'Assommoir have re-appearances, and certainly not...more
Frankie
L'Assommoir is well known for its portrayal of alcoholism. The 20th century prohibition movement took this novel up in a big way, as a morality play for the effects of alcohol abuse. Certainly if you read the final chapters, you will find yourself in Dante's first ring, with figures bouncing madly in padded cells, starving prostitutes limping down deserted streets, corpses rotting under the stairs. But the alcoholism in the novel serves merely as an enabler and multiplier for the miseries of the...more
Rebecca
Maybe it's just me who likes Zola so much, but this has been so far an all time favorite. Zola's realism is frightening. It's one of those books that describe reality so well, in such an ugly way that you find yourself unable to put the book down. Sometimes Zola exaggerates, maybe, but most of the time, it's so painfully true.
The book describes so well the struggle of the working class, a struggle against luck, society, tradition and emotional dependence. The characters, as Zola said, are not ev...more
Jerry
After Lalie has witnessed her mother perish at the hands of Bijard, her father, she assumes her mother's role both as the sole caretaker of her two younger siblings and as the sole victim of Bijard's frequent drunken rages. Though this little girl is increasingly brutalized, she never exhibits anger toward her father and even excuses his sadistic treatment of her as she dies from starvation and the whip marks that cover her entire body. The snapshots of Lalie's ordeal are an occasional backdrop...more
Sam
Absolutely crushing and horrifying. Mais fantastique. My $1.95 copy of the book completely disintegrated as I read it, so that the pages would fall out as soon as I finished them, fluttering to the floor and later sitting in a messy, out-of-order pile on my bedside table. I almost feel like it was meant to be read that way. I'm almost glad I can't go back and type out the passages that were most disturbing to me: men tortured by alcoholism and succumbing finally, humiliatingly, to delirium treme...more
Sabrina


Call me crazy but like a little grit with with my historical fiction. Don't get me wrong, I love reading about kings, queens, balls and jewels. However, I also love reading about how the other half lived or in Emile's case struggled to live.

Although L'Assomoir was written centuries ago, Emile's use of naturalism -poverty, unemployment, addiction, prejudice, human despair, class and gender struggles. Emile's Paris could be any city in any country today.

This was my first book by Emile Zola but i...more
Yves
Émile Zola est un de mes auteurs favoris. J'adore le côté sombre de ses livres qui décrit avec justesse le monde du 19e siècle. Son histoire des Rougon-Macquard se déroule durant le Second Empire en France.

Pour ce qui est de l'Assommoir, l'histoire raconte la vie de Gervaise, une femme qui après avoir eu deux enfants avec un homme est abandonnée. Elle se marie ensuite avec l'homme parfait. Cependant, sa vie tourne au cauchemar lorsque son homme se blesse en travaillant. Celui-ci tombe alors dans...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I very nearly rated this 4 stars. It is an emotionally draining story, one which I had to stop reading about 2/3 through because I couldn't bear to read any more just then.

Gervaise wanted just a simple life: a home, enough to eat, to not be beat, to die in her bed. She was young and such goals were attainable - in fact, except for the dying part - she had them. Some people, however, don't seem able to take charge of their own destinies.

This was my first Zola, it won't be the last. His style is...more
Alexander Santiago
Zola has a gift for infusing stark reality into his novels (a knack his critics and contempararies, at the time, were none to keen nor fond of) but, this novel cemented his reputatio as a prolific author. Nothing prepared me in reading this novel of the story of Gervaise, a Parisian washer woman living in abject poverty who, left with two kids and no money by a philandering beau, slowly pulls herself from her dire consequences and establishes her own successful laundry business, only to have it...more
Meredith
I've always avoided Zola... I heard rumors that he was boring, but L'Assommoir was anything but boring. From the opening chapter's rip-roaring cat fight between Gervaise and the sister of the woman her husband runs off with in a clothes washhouse, during which they fling pails of water at each other, exchange slaps as the spectators cry “the sluts are murdering each other!” and then beat each other with the clothes beaters, to Gervaise's ascent into respectability and self-sufficiency, to her sl...more
Tom
Grim and grimmer, yet also poignant and compelling.

Though the wrote in different halves of the century, I tend to group Balzac and Zola in same category of writers of sprawling social novels, but Zola is so merciless towards his characters that he wears one down after awhile. Balzac has more of a wickedly fun and compassionate view of his characters, even when all is falling apart.

Maan Kawas
A masterpiece by Emile Zola!!! It is a wonderful, painful, annoying, disturbing, and enchanting novel that demonstrates the great talents and creativity of Emile Zola. It is a wonderful novel, which basically seems to be about alcoholism and poverty – in working-class districts in Paris- and their destructive consequences, but it is full of rich themes and meanings that are universal and can be seen almost everywhere and every time. The novel includes a number of themes and points, such as alcoh...more
Kaloyana
"Който пие сам, сам умира, това е!" - малка, простичка сентенция. Като повечето в този роман на заплетени и променливи взаимоотношения.

"Вертеп" е от онези книги, които ти влизат под кожата, ред след ред. Толкова картинно и истински са описани нравите, състоянията, обстановката, характерите, вида на героите и техните гнусни взаимоотношения, че чак ти става лошо. Мислиш си, че повече низост и гадост не може да има. Иска ти се да не е толкова несправедлив животът, а хората да не са чак толкова дол...more
Rob Manwaring
I had to look up what "l'assommoir' means on the intraweb - which might explain why I failed my French A level. Anyway, it is apparently virtually untranslatable (is that even a word?. It is a slang word for a 19th century French drinking establishment where the spirits were distilled on site. Some translations call this novel 'The Gin Palace'. But the verb it comes from also means 'to deaden the senses' so it has a dual meaning. Anyway, just knocked off the first, depressing, chapter which has...more
Fanda Kutubuku
Kisah L'Assommoir berpusat di kalangan pekerja di Paris abad 19. Tokoh utamanya Gervaise yang muda dan cantik, namun menjadi getir karena kekasihnya (Lantier) yang malas hanya menghabiskan uang hasil jerih payah Gervaise sebagai buruh di rumah cuci. Ketika Lantier meninggalkan Gervaise, datanglah seorang pria tukang atap (roofer) bernama Coupeau yang mendekati dan akhirnya melamar Gervaise. Mereka pun menikah, dan sementara waktu hidup bahagia. Bahkan hasil tabungan mereka ditambah pinjaman dari...more
Jama
I found this book painful to read. Zola's moralizing about the dangers of alcoholsim were heavy handed to say the least, but they also interferred with any accurate depiction of the working class living in the slums in Paris. Zola's perspective is very bourgeois, and he views his characters as a flaneur, an urban sophisticate watching his inferiors from a distance. He admires the characters when they uphold bourgeois morals and attempt to succed through hard work and investment in business, but...more
Lett'
J’ai tout simplement adoré l’écriture de ce livre, cependant nous sommes un peu ennuyé face aux longues description. Le titre qui nous parait très représentatif de la quantité de lecture, signifie un bar.
Un livre d’une qualité rare, c’est vraiment du bon Zola. Il n’y a pas que l’intrigue qui nous saisit, mais aussi l’environnement qui comporte beaucoup d’ouvriers dans des conditions pas très bonne. Zola nous décrit les ravages de l’alcool qui peut nous emmener à la mort, en passant par la misère...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in November 2000.

Zola's novel caused such a commotion and was considered so immoral that its original serial publication was halted. Over the next century, it has proved sufficiently influential that the reason for this is to a large extent hidden, particularly in translation. Zola's story treats of the Parisian slums, and it is written in the language which would have been used by the characters, not in the equivalent of the exaggerated, cleaned up Cockney u...more
Dan
don't get me wrong, this book is impressive - and zola's wider genealogical project (les rougon-macquart) is downright fascinating. but l'assommoir was a BIG letdown for someone who really fell in love with germinal a year or so back.

i like zola best when he's dealing more with social structures than characters or narratives. in germinal, his hysterical side is balanced out by the sheer scope of the novel; with so many characters, there's little time for one or two of them to get lost in melodra...more
Maria Pallozzi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
J.M. Hushour
I'm reading the R-M per Zola's suggested reading order, making this #13 for me and I encountered a problem with this outstanding volume that I'm sure I will run into with the older ones which is that by now I've read most of the R-M, many of which are shockingly and woefully overlooked and underrated whereas books like l'Assommoir are touted as classics. Don't get me wrong, this is an amazing work (this edition in particular has a detailed accounting of the research Zola did for this one), rife...more
Andy
This is an incredibly dark, even harrowing novel. Of course, many classic novels deal with the issue of poverty and want, Dostoevsky describes it well in “Crime and Punishment” as does Dickens in “Hard Times,” but I've never read anything like this. No one describes squalor, filth, hunger, humiliation and misery like Zola. In “The Drinking Den” once things start going downhill nothing good ever happens again. Just when you can't imagine things getting worse, Zola is eager to show you how they ca...more
Charles Matthews
I had never read any Zola, so I figured it was about time, and I've had this paperback sitting on my shelves for several years. Unfortunately, it took me several months to get through it, not because it's a difficult read but because I decided to launch my Proust Project and because I had a few review assignments that intervened. Not much time for other reading.

Actually, it was fascinating to read Zola and Proust together. Proust is so internal, Zola so exterior. In fact, I wouldn't call L'Asso...more
Henry
I cannot say there was much joy in this book, just as there wasn't much joy in the lives of those depicted. On the other hand, I'm glad I read it. I do find the 19th century to be quite fascinating. I marked three quotes that I thought were worth recording.

"It's all very well not to be envious, but it is maddening when other people put on your boots and use them to stamp on you." [page 308]

"Boche had known a joiner who had stripped himself stark naked in the rue Saint-Martin and died doing the...more
Marissa Sackett
For the past 8 years, this book sat dog-eared at page 25 on my bookshelf. Due to a New Year's resolution to finish all my 'forgotten' books, I finally sat down and read L'Assomoir. Reveled by my French teacher in high school as one of the greatest depictions of 19th century Parisian poverty, I always wanted to have the same experience she had in reading this novel. And I did. Emotional, thought provoking, enraging and historically accurate- I felt as if I was a good friend of Gervaise, always wa...more
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All About Books: The Drinking Den by Émile Zola (Zola Project) 47 36 May 17, 2014 11:37PM  
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4750
Émile François Zola was an influential French novelist, the most important example of the literary school of naturalism, and a major figure in the political liberalization of France.

More than half of Zola's novels were part of a set of 20 books collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. Unlike Balzac who in the midst of his literary career resynthesized his work into La Comédie Humaine, Zola from...more
More about Émile Zola...
Germinal (Les Rougon-Macquart, #13) Nana (Les Rougon-Macquart, #9) Thérèse Raquin La Bête humaine (Les Rougon-Macquart, #17) The Ladies' Paradise (Les Rougon-Macquart, #11)

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“Death had to take her little by little, bit by bit, dragging her along to the bitter end of the miserable existence she'd made for herself. They never even knew what she did die of. Some spoke of a chill. But the truth was that she died from poverty, from the filth and the weariness of her wretched life.” 7 likes
“While the storm was erupting, she stayed, staring at it, watching the shafts of lightning, like someone who could see serious things, far away in the future in these sudden flashes of light.” 2 likes
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