The Fortune of the Rougons lays the foundation for the Rougon-Macquart series, 20 novels about various characters from one family living in France dur...moreThe Fortune of the Rougons lays the foundation for the Rougon-Macquart series, 20 novels about various characters from one family living in France during the Second Empire (1852-1870). The story begins with Silvere, a 17 apprentice wheelwright, self-educated, idealistic, whose, “complete ignorance of mankind, kept him in a dreamworld of theory, a Garden of Eden where universal justice reigned”. Silvere is intoxicated by Rousseau and his 13 year-old-sweetheart, Miette. They meet each night in a disused cemetery and Zola begins and ends his story in this spot, which, “gorged with corpses for over a century, exuded death”. Zola can be wonderfully morbid and having the young lovers meet amongst disgorged bones and toppled, mossy tombstones is suitably gothic for the dark events that follow.
The story follows Silvere and Miette as they join a growing band of insurgent republicans, then segues to introduce the reader to Silvere’s uncles, the failed businessman Pierre Rougon and his illegitimate half-brother, Antoine Marcquet. Both are egoists, cynically manipulating the civic disorder in their small town resulting from Louis Napoleons coup, for their own ends. The plotting which follows is suspenseful and anticipates, in a crude way, later political thrillers.
Zola’s characterisations are not as well-rounded as in some of his later novels and his symbolism can be a bit heavy-handed at times, but overall The Fortune of the Rougons is a well-paced, engaging read. (less)
I tried and tried and tried to enjoy this book, but I just didn't care and ended up putting it down just as Martin C is about to get hoodwinked by an...moreI tried and tried and tried to enjoy this book, but I just didn't care and ended up putting it down just as Martin C is about to get hoodwinked by an American con-man.
I love much of Dickens writing; Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend and Great Expectations are some of my favorite novels. But MC left me cold. The characters were too black and white, even for Dickens and the story meandered here and there and there was little tension. He was brutal about America and Americans, they were either con artists or snobbish hypocrites. The English characters fared better, most of them were just hypocrites.
Dickens loved this most of all his books and thought it the best of his novels. His readers, at the time it was published in serial form, disagreed. So do I. (less)
Trollope wrote a great many books during his lifetime, so it is not surprising some were a little mediocre. Unfortunately The Duke's Children is one o...moreTrollope wrote a great many books during his lifetime, so it is not surprising some were a little mediocre. Unfortunately The Duke's Children is one of them. There is a shameless re-hashing of plots and characters, with just a little twist of each to keep him from completely plagiarizing himself. Having said that, however, I will persist with the book because even characters that pale in comparison with those in the earlier Palliser novels are interesting enough for me to follow to the end. (less)