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(Les Rougon-Macquart #10)

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,732 ratings  ·  102 reviews
This new translation of Zola's most acerbic social satire captures the directness and robustness of Zola's language and restores the omissions of earlier abridged versions.

Pot Luck (1882) is the tenth in Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle of twenty novels illustrating the influence of environment on characters from all levels of society. Zola's most acerbic fictional satire, the
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1882)
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Average rating 3.94  · 
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E. G.
Translator's Note
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Émile Zola

--Pot Luck

Explanatory Notes
Greg Brozeit
Feb 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zola
Zola again writes with contempt and, at times, dark humor about the duplicity of all parts of society during the Second Empire. I can't think of one sympathetic or likeable character—much like his novel, The Kill —but found it thoroughly engaging nonetheless.

The setting is a modern apartment house and the plot revolves around Octave Mouret, son of Francois and Marthe Mouret, the key figures in The Conquest of Plassans , as he strives to seek his fortune, love conquests and station in life
MJ Nicholls
A prototypical bedroom farce. The bible for 1970s British comedy scriptwriters.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I expected to like this and I was not disappointed. I did not read the new translation by Brian Nelson, but the description given for his translation aptly describes the basis for the story.

Zola called this Pot Bouille, which I knew does not translate Pot Luck; another English title is Piping Hot, which doesn't quite do it either. It literally means "pot boils" and I spent many pages trying to assimilate this "boils" to the novel. A bit over halfway, he says ... a lively woman who had been rear
May 31, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c19th, france, zola-read
Well, here we are at No 7 in the recommended reading order for those wanting to read Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle of novels. It’s Pot-Bouille, written in 1882 and translated variously as Pot Luck, Restless House, and Piping Hot though none of these really capture the metaphorical meaning of the original title, according to Brian Nelson, the translator of this Oxford World Classics edition. There isn’t really an English word which manages to convey the ‘melting-pot of sexual promiscuity’ which pe ...more

Librairie Générale Française (1974),
Mass Market Paperback, 510 pages (French Edition)
Original publication date: 1882

I was rather amused to find that in the introduction to this cheap, badly printed paperback edition, Mr. D'Armand Lanoux, a writer who had received the Prix Goncourt, in what is an oh so very typical French fashion, rather than telling the reader what delights are in store for him or her, went about explaining everything that is wrong with this novel, and how this work is the 'dar
Apr 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Filthy! I feel like I need a shower.
Was looking forward to the next one I'm planning to read, The Ladies' Paradise, but if vapid, eternally desperate Octave is the main character...bleh. I'm sure Zola will pull it off, though.
Also, what a weird translation of the title... I think "Boiling-Pot" makes more sense.
Sotiris Karaiskos
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: french, classics
Continuing our tour of the French society of the second empire we reach a strange category of people. Members of the bourgeoisie, with aristocratic behavior, strong moral principles and a dignified appearance, with connections and ambitions that, however, are particularly difficult to maintain at this social level. You see, this image is actually a lie. There is no money, aristocratic behavior is just a theatrical role and as far as morality and dignity is concerned, it stops behind closed doors ...more
In the French Second Empire Middle Class respectability is not that respectable

And that is about all you need to know about Emile Zola’s Pot Luck. There is a certain sympathy for the Catholic Father and his counterpart the Doctor. Each will tend as best they can to the tenants of the per-maturely aging apartments on the Rue de Choiseul. I mention them not because there are major characters or because they are the first to appear, they are just about the only characters a reader may come to like.
J.M. Hushour
Feb 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Pot Luck", according to a reviewer in Le Temps Moderne, was Zola's "all-about-the-fuckin'" installment of his 20-volume Les Rougons-Macquart chronicle. And there is plenty of fuckin'. In fact, the overarching theme is sex, adultery, and shitty, shitty people. Most of the action takes place in a bourgeois apartment block in the early 1860s where a bunch of wannabe, shiftless, pathetic middle class assholes live and pretend to be virtuous imperial citizens. But secretly they're all banging each o ...more
Eve Kay
Émile Zola proves with Pot Luck that he is one of the few writers who can pretty much write what ever. He delivers. He has politics, society, the grim and gruesome of what is real life and how people act in reality, in his pocket. On top of all of that he can also write your general entertaining books that just take your mind off everyday matters and has a very light side to it.
Sex side to it, I obviously mean.
There is so much sex in this book I'm not used to from Zola. Again, not that he didn't
Nov 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to detest watching reality shows thinking that it was below my dignity.

However, when I caught up with reading Pot Luck by Zola and observing all these love affairs, gossiping and quarels with compelling interest, I didn't feel that something was wrong at first. Then it gradually came to my understanding that I was highly enjoyng a written reality show from 19th century... Yes, talentedly written with exquisite wit and deep observations, but still a reality show. "In the next episode we w
David Bisset
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Life in a middle class apartment block

The novel is a vicious attack on the hypocrisy and corruption of middle class Parisian society during the Empire period. It is not bereft of humour, but it is much more satirical than humorous. Some incidents border on farce, but it has savage elements. The descriptive passages are impeccable. And so continues the history of the
Rougon-Macquart family, the summit of Zola's literary output.
No one writes about love and relationships like the French. Written in 1882, this is a tale of the goings on in a Parisian apartment building. It is lots of fun and loaded with characters of all sorts. This translation by Brian Nelson is from 1999 and considered one of the best.
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zola certainly was interested in how "upbringing and health" (genetics/heritage and environment) would affect person's personality and behavior ...more
Jun 12, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Zola is one of my favorite classic writers but this book did not leave me impressed the least. A confusing garble of a storyline and characters appearing here and there without a clear discernment.
Oct 08, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This guy must've been a scandal. Any book that proclaims "The Only Un-Edited, Un-Expurgated Edition"...well, must've been censored at some point. So, Zola...late 19th Century France, allied with the Naturalist school of fiction and drama, countered Romantic idealism and Surrealist symbolism, blah blah blah (thanks Wiki). Instead of repeating those arguments about mimesis and artifice, I'm going to point towards a couple moments where Zola breaks his own rules.

He's got this damning tone throughou
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Brian Nelson’s choice of title for Zola’s novel—Pot Luck—was truly a smart decision on his part. On the one hand, the title is a good reflection of the mixed bourgeois class—the families and servants—living in that Paris apartment building; yet, the title also reflects the effervescent style Zola used when he wrote this story. It’s like a pot that’s at a rolling boil. The story is full of scene easily flows into the next and is told with such energy that you don’t really get a chanc ...more
Felice Picano
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zola is a late taste for me and I seem to read his less known works. A few years ago I read and liked his stories, then more recently I read and very much liked Ladies Paradise (about an early Department Store in Paris)and now Piping Hot, or Pot a Bouille in the French. That actually translates more to something like Boiling Over and that's good title for this short but full and pithy novel. Because it is set in a residential building in Paris where everything is going on at once: well not yet. ...more
as my last book for 2012, i really wanted to love this, but maybe having read The Ladies Paradise before (for which this is a prequel) sort of spoiled it for me.

this is a farce, but it can also be quite dark. it's also probably the second most overtly perverse tales in the Rougon-Macquart series (The Earth still holding that trophy high). but i feel like it took forever to establish the bewildering cast of characters (seriously: there were people toward the end that i couldn't figure for the li
Aug 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: emile-zola
One of the funniest news novels I have read this year. The sharp satire and the hypocrisy of everyone is breathtaking. I have read only one other Zola but I have to say I am hooked.

Octave one of the main characters is a bit of a dick and he was one of the few likable characters. The women aside from Marie were horrible living in a delusional world. Talk about trying to be better than the Jones! Greed, adultery, a madman, greedy drunken rich uncle and a dodgy judge living in a house with no secr
Sep 25, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014, french
Joe Rodeck
The strongest aspect of Pot Luck is in its demonstration of how concerns over money sickens families. That one simple fight every day destroys marriage and poisons the children for life.

On the downside: Simply following Octave's conquests of all the married women in the building is not plot enough. It must have had more satirical X-rated appeal back then.

Besides; too many characters to try to care about:

*Adele, maid, servant to the Josserands, and one of Hector Trublot's friends.
*Alexandre, a
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sex, adultery, and babies born in squalor: against the primly pious moralists of bourgeois respectability Zola pitilessly carves the interlocking stories of desire's most squalid predictabilities. No relationship is untouched by the novelist's recognition. Fathers are revealed as blind and useless – their midnight labours a joke on productivity. Daughters become repetitions of their mothers. Lovers interlock within marriage's interstices to form a frothing patchwork of spite, assault, neglect, a ...more
Esme Kemp
If you can get thru the overt sexism and accept it for what it is - an acerbic commentary on the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie - it’s actually a pretty dope scathing report of the upper echelons of French society in 1870s.

A lavish 4 story bourgeoisie apartment forms the backdrop to a melting pot of servants and masters, rich and luxurious lifestyles juxtaposed against the servants “foul mouthed” and filthy quarters. Marriage is held up as an institution with which to regulate society and uphold
Tarah Luke
Dec 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Note: I am reading the Rougon-Macquart books out of publication order and instead by the recommended reading order published more than a century ago.

I enjoyed the upstairs/downstairs of the book, which differs significantly from the other Rougon-Macquart books. The connection of this one to the cycle is Octave Mouret, son of the Mouret family last seen in The Conquest of Plassans. Octave has come north to Paris to make his fortune, but along the way, he is going to do a bit of womanizing on the
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rougon-macquart
"Have you read this new novel?", asked Leon... "It's well written, but it's another adultery story; they really are going too far!"

I don't think Pot Luck is one of my favourites of Zola's Rougon-Macquart but it's nonetheless quite a good book. Set in an apartment building in the 1860s, Zola mercilessly tears the delicate layers of gentility off of bourgeois morality to expose the many crimes and misdemeanours taking place therein. The tenth in the series, this might be the first time I think the
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-library, zola
3.5 stars. The bourgeoisie during Zola's time was scandalized by this novel, which paints them as immoral facade-ists. Nowadays it doesn't shock, but there are some nice touches that make it worth a read. Families angling to get their daughters married has been a thing since Jane Austen, but Zola shows just how contrived and conniving it can be.

I loved the character of Trublot, whom Octave notices keep disappearing into kitchens and up servants' stairways. Octave - a Rougon - is a bit of a ciph
Anna Kimberley
Jul 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A delightful book!
I was not expecting it to be this good because, a few books from the Rougon Macquart cycle have proved rather dull but this is a little gem! It has all the trappings and intrigue of a comic opera: the individual families on each level within the building, the young, single men in search of conquests, adultery, seduction, the servants gossiping and ridiculing their masters... It's pure theatre!
Dec 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An enjoyable read--a satire that's sometimes horrifying, often funny, and interesting and vivid throughout. It's not the kind of book that really moves you emotionally, but I don't think that was Zola's intent. ...more
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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

Other books in the series

Les Rougon-Macquart (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Fortune of the Rougons
  • La Curée
  • The Belly of Paris
  • La Conquête de Plassans (Les Rougon-Macquart, #4)
  • La Faute de l'abbé Mouret (Les Rougon-Macquart, #5)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (Les Rougon-Macquart, #6)
  • L'Assommoir
  • Une Page d'amour
  • Nana
  • The Ladies' Paradise

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