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Theresa Raquin

Theresa Raquin

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Theresa Raquin

3/5 (542 ratings)
279 pages
4 hours
Apr 11, 2015


One Thursday, Camille, on returning from his office, brought with him a great fellow with square shoulders, whom he pushed in a familiar manner into the shop.

"Mother," he said to Madame Raquin, pointing to the newcomer, "do you recognise this gentleman?"
The old mercer looked at the strapping blade, seeking among her recollections and finding nothing, while Therese placidly observed the scene.

"What!" resumed Camille, "you don't recognise Laurent, little Laurent, the son of daddy Laurent who owns those beautiful fields of corn out Jeufosse way. Don't you remember? I went to school with him; he came to fetch me of a morning on leaving the house of his uncle, who was our neighbour, and you used to give him slices of bread and jam."

All at once Madame Raquin recollected little Laurent, whom she found very much grown. It was quite ten years since she had seen him. She now did her best to make him forget her lapse of memory in greeting him, by recalling a thousand little incidents of the past, and by adopting a wheedling manner towards him that was quite maternal. Laurent had seated himself. With a peaceful smile on his lips, he replied to the questions addressed to him in a clear voice, casting calm and easy glances around him.

"Just imagine," said Camille, "this joker has been employed at the Orleans-Railway-Station for eighteen months, and it was only to-night that we met and recognised one another—the administration is so vast, so important!"
As the young man made this remark, he opened his eyes wider, and pinched his lips, proud to be a humble wheel in such a large machine. Shaking his head, he continued:

"Oh! but he is in a good position. He has studied. He already earns 1,500 francs a year. His father sent him to college. He had read for the bar, and learnt painting. That is so, is it not, Laurent? You'll dine with us?"
"I am quite willing," boldly replied the other.

He got rid of his hat and made himself comfortable in the shop, while Madame Raquin ran off to her stewpots. Therese, who had not yet pronounced a word, looked at the new arrival. She had never seen such a man before. Laurent, who was tall and robust, with a florid complexion, astonished her. It was with a feeling akin to admiration, that she contemplated his low forehead planted with coarse black hair, his full cheeks, his red lips, his regular features of sanguineous beauty. For an instant her eyes rested on his neck, a neck that was thick and short, fat and powerful. Then she became lost in the contemplation of his great hands which he kept spread out on his knees: the fingers were square; the clenched fist must be enormous and would fell an ox.

Apr 11, 2015

About the author

Murat Ukray, aynı zamanda yayıncılık da yapan yazar, 1976 yılında İstanbul'da doğdu. Üniversite'de Elektronik Mühendisliği okuduktan sonra, Yazarlık ve Yayıncılık hayatına atıldı. Yayınlanmış -16- kitabı vardır. Çöl Gezegen, Yazarın 16. Kitabıdır.Yazarın yayınlanmış diğer Kitapları:1- Kıyamet Gerçekliği (Kurgu Roman) (2006)2- Birleşik Alan Teorisi (Teori - Fizik & Matematik) (2007)3- İsevilik İşaretleri (Araştırma) (2008)4- Yaratılış Gerçekliği- 2 Cilt (Biyokimya Atlası)(2009)5- Aşk-ı Mesnevi (Kurgu Roman) (2010)6- Zamanın Sahipleri (Deneme) (2011)7- Hanımlar Rehberi (İlmihal) (2012)8- Eskilerin Masalları (Araştırma) (2013)9- Ruyet-ul Gayb (Haberci Rüyalar) (Deneme) (2014)10- Sonsuzluğun Sonsuzluğu (114 Kod) (Teori & Deneme) (2015)11- Kanon (Kutsal Kitapların Yeni Bir Yorumu) (Teori & Araştırma) (2016)12- Küçük Elisa (Zaman Yolcusu) (Çocuk Kitabı) (2017)13- Tanrı'nın Işıkları (Çölde Başlayan Hikaye) (Bilim-Kurgu Roman) (2018)14- Son Kehanet- 2 Cilt (Bilim-Kurgu Roman) (2019)15- Medusa'nın Sırrı (Bilim-Kurgu Roman) (2020)16- Çöl Gezegen (Bilim-Kurgu Roman) (2021)

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Theresa Raquin - Murat Ukray


Chapter I

At the end of the Rue Guenegaud, coming from the quays, you find the Arcade of the Pont Neuf, a sort of narrow, dark corridor running from the Rue Mazarine to the Rue de Seine. This arcade, at the most, is thirty paces long by two in breadth. It is paved with worn, loose, yellowish tiles which are never free from acrid damp. The square panes of glass forming the roof, are black with filth.

On fine days in the summer, when the streets are burning with heavy sun, whitish light falls from the dirty glazing overhead to drag miserably through the arcade. On nasty days in winter, on foggy mornings, the glass throws nothing but darkness on the sticky tiles—unclean and abominable gloom.

To the left are obscure, low, dumpy shops whence issue puffs of air as cold as if coming from a cellar. Here are dealers in toys, cardboard boxes, second-hand books. The articles displayed in their windows are covered with dust, and owing to the prevailing darkness, can only be perceived indistinctly. The shop fronts, formed of small panes of glass, streak the goods with a peculiar greenish reflex. Beyond, behind the display in the windows, the dim interiors resemble a number of lugubrious cavities animated by fantastic forms.

To the right, along the whole length of the arcade, extends a wall against which the shopkeepers opposite have stuck some small cupboards. Objects without a name, goods forgotten for twenty years, are spread out there on thin shelves painted a horrible brown colour. A dealer in imitation jewelry has set up shop in one of these cupboards, and there sells fifteen sous rings, delicately set out on a cushion of blue velvet at the bottom of a mahogany box.

Above the glazed cupboards, ascends the roughly plastered black wall, looking as if covered with leprosy, and all seamed with defacements.

The Arcade of the Pont Neuf is not a place for a stroll. You take it to make a short cut, to gain a few minutes. It is traversed by busy people whose sole aim is to go quick and straight before them. You see apprentices there in their working-aprons, work-girls taking home their work, persons of both sexes with parcels under their arms. There are also old men who drag themselves forward in the sad gloaming that falls from the glazed roof, and bands of small children who come to the arcade on leaving school, to make a noise by stamping their feet on the tiles as they run along. Throughout the day a sharp hurried ring of footsteps resounds on the stone with irritating irregularity. Nobody speaks, nobody stays there, all hurry about their business with bent heads, stepping out rapidly, without taking a single glance at the shops. The tradesmen observe with an air of alarm, the passers-by who by a miracle stop before their windows.

The arcade is lit at night by three gas burners, enclosed in heavy square lanterns. These jets of gas, hanging from the glazed roof whereon they cast spots of fawn-coloured light, shed around them circles of pale glimmer that seem at moments to disappear. The arcade now assumes the aspect of a regular cut-throat alley. Great shadows stretch along the tiles, damp puffs of air enter from the street. Anyone might take the place for a subterranean gallery indistinctly lit-up by three funeral lamps. The tradespeople for all light are contented with the faint rays which the gas burners throw upon their windows. Inside their shops, they merely have a lamp with a shade, which they place at the corner of their counter, and the passer-by can then distinguish what the depths of these holes sheltering night in the daytime, contain. On this blackish line of shop fronts, the windows of a cardboard-box maker are flaming: two schist-lamps pierce the shadow with a couple of yellow flames. And, on the other side of the arcade a candle, stuck in the middle of an argand lamp glass, casts glistening stars into the box of imitation jewelry. The dealer is dozing in her cupboard, with her hands hidden under her shawl.

A few years back, opposite this dealer, stood a shop whose bottle-green woodwork excreted damp by all its cracks. On the signboard, made of a long narrow plank, figured, in black letters the word: MERCERY. And on one of the panes of glass in the door was written, in red, the name of a woman: Therese Raquin. To right and left were deep show cases, lined with blue paper.

During the daytime the eye could only distinguish the display of goods, in a soft, obscured light.

On one side were a few linen articles: crimped tulle caps at two and three francs apiece, muslin sleeves and collars: then undervests, stockings, socks, braces. Each article had grown yellow and crumpled, and hung lamentably suspended from a wire hook. The window, from top to bottom, was filled in this manner with whitish bits of clothing, which took a lugubrious aspect in the transparent obscurity. The new caps, of brighter whiteness, formed hollow spots on the blue paper covering the shelves. And the coloured socks hanging on an iron rod, contributed sombre notes to the livid and vague effacement of the muslin.

On the other side, in a narrower show case, were piled up large balls of green wool, white cards of black buttons, boxes of all colours and sizes, hair nets ornamented with steel beads, spread over rounds of bluish paper, fasces of knitting needles, tapestry patterns, bobbins of ribbon, along with a heap of soiled and faded articles, which doubtless had been lying in the same place for five or six years. All the tints had turned dirty grey in this cupboard, rotting with dust and damp.

In summer, towards noon, when the sun scorched the squares and streets with its tawny rays, you could distinguish, behind the caps in the other window, the pale, grave profile of a young woman. This profile issued vaguely from the darkness reigning in the shop. To a low parched forehead was attached a long, narrow, pointed nose; the pale pink lips resembled two thin threads, and the short, nervy chin was attached to the neck by a line that was supple and fat. The body, lost in the shadow, could not be seen. The profile alone appeared in its olive whiteness, perforated by a large, wide-open, black eye, and as though crushed beneath thick dark hair. This profile remained there for hours, motionless and peaceful, between a couple of caps for women, whereon the damp iron rods had imprinted bands of rust.

At night, when the lamp had been lit, you could see inside the shop which was greater in length than depth. At one end stood a small counter; at the other, a corkscrew staircase afforded communication with the rooms on the first floor. Against the walls were show cases, cupboards, rows of green cardboard boxes. Four chairs and a table completed the furniture. The shop looked bare and frigid; the goods were done up in parcels and put away in corners instead of lying hither and thither in a joyous display of colour.

As a rule two women were seated behind the counter: the young woman with the grave profile, and an old lady who sat dozing with a smile on her countenance. The latter was about sixty; and her fat, placid face looked white in the brightness of the lamp. A great tabby cat, crouching at a corner of the counter, watched her as she slept.

Lower down, on a chair, a man of thirty sat reading or chatting in a subdued voice with the young woman. He was short, delicate, and in manner languid. With his fair hair devoid of lustre, his sparse beard, his face covered with red blotches, he resembled a sickly, spoilt child arrived at manhood.

Shortly before ten o'clock, the old lady awoke. The shop was then closed, and all the family went upstairs to bed. The tabby cat followed the party purring, and rubbing its head against each bar of the banisters.

The lodging above comprised three apartments. The staircase led to a dining-room which also did duty as drawing-room. In a niche on the left stood a porcelain stove; opposite, a sideboard; then chairs were arranged along the walls, and a round table occupied the centre. At the further end a glazed partition concealed a dark kitchen. On each side of the dining-room was a sleeping apartment.

The old lady after kissing her son and daughter-in-law withdrew. The cat went to sleep on a chair in the kitchen. The married couple entered their room, which had a second door opening on a staircase that communicated with the arcade by an obscure narrow passage.

The husband who was always trembling with fever went to bed, while the young woman opened the window to close the shutter blinds. She remained there a few minutes facing the great black wall, which ascends and stretches above the arcade. She cast a vague wandering look upon this wall, and, without a word she, in her turn, went to bed in disdainful indifference.

Chapter II

Madame Raquin had formerly been a mercer at Vernon. For close upon five-and-twenty years, she had kept a small shop in that town. A few years after the death of her husband, becoming subject to fits of faintness, she sold her business. Her savings added to the price of this sale placed a capital of 40,000 francs in her hand which she invested so that it brought her in an income of 2,000 francs a year. This sum amply sufficed for her requirements. She led the life of a recluse. Ignoring the poignant joys and cares of this world, she arranged for herself a tranquil existence of peace and happiness.

At an annual rental of 400 francs she took a small house with a garden descending to the edge of the Seine. This enclosed, quiet residence vaguely recalled the cloister. It stood in the centre of large fields, and was approached by a narrow path. The windows of the dwelling opened to the river and to the solitary hillocks on the opposite bank. The good lady, who had passed the half century, shut herself up in this solitary retreat, where along with her son Camille and her niece Therese, she partook of serene joy.

Although Camille was then twenty, his mother continued to spoil him like a little child. She adored him because she had shielded him from death, throughout a tedious childhood of constant suffering. The boy contracted every fever, every imaginable malady, one after the other. Madame Raquin struggled for fifteen years against these terrible evils, which arrived in rapid succession to tear her son away from her. She vanquished them all by patience, care, and adoration. Camille having grown up, rescued from death, had contracted a shiver from the torture of the repeated shocks he had undergone. Arrested in his growth, he remained short and delicate. His long, thin limbs moved slowly and wearily. But his mother loved him all the more on account of this weakness that arched his back. She observed his thin, pale face with triumphant tenderness when she thought of how she had brought him back to life more than ten times over.

During the brief spaces of repose that his sufferings allowed him, the child attended a commercial school at Vernon. There he learned orthography and arithmetic. His science was limited to the four rules, and a very superficial knowledge of grammar. Later on, he took lessons in writing and bookkeeping. Madame Raquin began to tremble when advised to send her son to college. She knew he would die if separated from her, and she said the books would kill him. So Camille remained ignorant, and this ignorance seemed to increase his weakness.

At eighteen, having nothing to do, bored to death at the delicate attention of his mother, he took a situation as clerk with a linen merchant, where he earned 60 francs a month. Being of a restless nature idleness proved unbearable. He found greater calm and better health in this labour of a brute which kept him bent all day long over invoices, over enormous additions, each figure of which he patiently added up. At night, broken down with fatigue, without an idea in his head, he enjoyed infinite delight in the doltishness that settled on him. He had to quarrel with his mother to go with the dealer in linen. She wanted to keep him always with her, between a couple of blankets, far from the accidents of life.

But the young man spoke as master. He claimed work as children claim toys, not from a feeling of duty, but by instinct, by a necessity of nature. The tenderness, the devotedness of his mother had instilled into him an egotism that was ferocious. He fancied he loved those who pitied and caressed him; but, in reality, he lived apart, within himself, loving naught but his comfort, seeking by all possible means to increase his enjoyment. When the tender affection of Madame Raquin disgusted him, he plunged with delight into a stupid occupation that saved him from infusions and potions.

In the evening, on his return from the office, he ran to the bank of the Seine with his cousin Therese who was then close upon eighteen. One day, sixteen years previously, while Madame Raquin was still a mercer, her brother Captain Degans brought her a little girl in his arms. He had just arrived from Algeria.

Here is a child, said he with a smile, and you are her aunt. The mother is dead and I don't know what to do with her. I'll give her to you.

The mercer took the child, smiled at her and kissed her rosy cheeks. Although Degans remained a week at Vernon, his sister barely put a question to him concerning the little girl he had brought her. She understood vaguely that the dear little creature was born at Oran, and that her mother was a woman of the country of great beauty. The Captain, an hour before his departure, handed his sister a certificate of birth in which Therese, acknowledged by him to be his child, bore his name. He rejoined his regiment, and was never seen again at Vernon, being killed a few years later in Africa.

Therese grew up under the fostering care of her aunt, sleeping in the same bed as Camille. She who had an iron constitution, received the treatment of a delicate child, partaking of the same medicine as her cousin, and kept in the warm air of the room occupied by the invalid. For hours she remained crouching over the fire, in thought, watching the flames before her, without lowering her eyelids.

This obligatory life of a convalescent caused her to retire within herself. She got into the habit of talking in a low voice, of moving about noiselessly, of remaining mute and motionless on a chair with expressionless, open eyes. But, when she raised an arm, when she advanced a foot, it was easy to perceive that she possessed feline suppleness, short, potent muscles, and that unmistakable energy and passion slumbered in her soporous frame. Her cousin having fallen down one day in a fainting fit, she abruptly picked him up and carried him—an effort of strength that turned her cheeks scarlet. The cloistered life she led, the debilitating regimen to which she found herself subjected, failed to weaken her thin, robust form. Only her face took a pale, and even a slightly yellowish tint, making her look almost ugly in the shade. Ever and anon she went to the window, and contemplated the opposite houses on which the sun threw sheets of gold.

When Madame Raquin sold her business, and withdrew to the little place beside the river, Therese experienced secret thrills of joy. Her aunt had so frequently repeated to her: Don't make a noise; be quiet, that she kept all the impetuosity of her nature carefully concealed within her. She possessed supreme composure, and an apparent tranquillity that masked terrible transports. She still fancied herself in the room of her cousin, beside a dying child, and had the softened movements, the periods of silence, the placidity, the faltering speech of an old woman.

When she saw the garden, the clear river, the vast green hillocks ascending on the horizon, she felt a savage desire to run and shout. She felt her heart thumping fit to burst in her bosom; but not a muscle of her face moved, and she merely smiled when her aunt inquired whether she was pleased with her new home.

Life now became more pleasant for her. She maintained her supple gait, her calm, indifferent countenance, she remained the child brought up in the bed of an invalid; but inwardly she lived a burning, passionate existence. When alone on the grass beside the water, she would lie down flat on her stomach like an animal, her black eyes wide open, her body writhing, ready to spring. And she stayed there for hours, without a thought, scorched by the sun, delighted at being able to thrust her fingers in the earth. She had the most ridiculous dreams; she looked at the roaring river in defiance, imagining that the water was about to leap on her and attack her. Then she became rigid, preparing for the defence, and angrily inquiring of herself how she could vanquish the torrent.

At night, Therese, appeased and silent, stitched beside her aunt, with a countenance that seemed to be dozing in the gleam that softly glided from beneath the lamp shade. Camille buried in an armchair thought of his additions. A word uttered in a low voice, alone disturbed, at moments, the peacefulness of this drowsy home.

Madame Raquin observed her children with serene benevolence. She had resolved to make them husband and wife. She continued to treat her son as if he were at death's door; and she trembled when she happened to reflect that she would one day die herself, and would leave him alone and suffering. In that contingency, she relied on Therese, saying to herself that the young girl would be a vigilant guardian beside Camille. Her niece with her tranquil manner, and mute devotedness, inspired her with unlimited confidence. She had seen Therese at work, and wished to give her to her son as a guardian angel. This marriage was a solution to the matter, foreseen and settled in her mind.

The children knew for a long time that they were one day to marry. They had grown up with this idea, which had thus become familiar and natural to them. The union was spoken of in the family as a necessary and positive thing. Madame Raquin had said:

We will wait until Therese is one-and-twenty.

And they waited patiently, without excitement, and without a blush.

Camille, whose blood had become impoverished by illness, had remained a little boy in the eyes of his cousin. He kissed her as he kissed his mother, by habit, without losing any of his egotistic tranquillity. He looked upon her as an obliging comrade who helped him to amuse himself, and who, if occasion offered, prepared him an infusion. When playing with her, when he held her in his arms, it was as if he had a boy to deal with. He experienced no thrill, and at these moments the idea had never occurred to him of planting a warm kiss on her lips as she struggled with a nervous laugh to free herself.

The girl also seemed to have remained cold and indifferent. At times her great eyes rested on Camille and fixedly gazed at him with sovereign calm. On such occasions her lips alone made almost imperceptible little motions. Nothing could be read on her expressionless countenance, which an inexorable will always maintained gentle and attentive. Therese became grave when the conversation turned to her marriage, contenting herself with approving all that Madame Raquin said by a sign of the head. Camille went to sleep.

On summer evenings, the two young people ran to the edge of the water. Camille, irritated at the incessant attentions of his mother, at times broke out in open revolt. He wished to run about and make himself ill, to escape the fondling that disgusted him. He would then drag Therese along with him, provoking her to wrestle, to roll in the grass. One day, having pushed his cousin down, the young girl bounded to her feet with all the savageness of a wild beast, and, with flaming face and bloodshot eyes, fell upon him with clenched fists. Camille in fear sank to the ground.

Months and years passed by, and at length the day fixed for the marriage arrived. Madame Raquin took Therese apart, spoke to her of her father and mother, and related to her the story of her birth. The young girl listened to her aunt, and when she had finished speaking, kissed her, without answering a word.

At night,

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What people think about Theresa Raquin

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  • (3/5)
    Zola was exhaustive in his efforts to establish his thesis of debilitating compunction. Unfortunately the reader is left bruised and likewise knackered as well. Old morality raises its invisible hand and thwarts the adulterers. It isn't that simple, but such is the thrust. The details of the waterborne episode are especially chilling.
  • (3/5)
    It had been a while since I read a French novel and I'd been wanting to dive back into Zola. I think this is his first one and has some of the same themes as the other two I've read (Nana and L'assommoir) - What I find most fascinating about his stories are the details of middle class life in 19th century Paris. He'll talk about money and boredom and mediocrity and personalities that can't survive the things they've done.
  • (1/5)
    Another very dark, negative, tale from Zola--which is to be expected, since all he wrote was like that. Not one character has any redeeming quality, on the contrary. You are left to deal with the almost-scum of the earth. I had to read French Realism in high school and forgot how dry, gloomy and negative it all is. Pass this one and go straight to Proust. He was not an optimist, but at least his writing will raise you to heights you will find in no other writer.
  • (5/5)
    This is such a seriously Gothic story, IMO. The anger, the hatred, the lust, the disgust and the paranoia. Such a delicious mixture so well written is totally sick! I have read this story more than once and enjoy it more each time discovering new things and new interpretations every time I do. Zola is a master craftsman in the genre and I encourage anyone to read this book. You will discover the roots of many modern television and cinema themes paying homage to this book. I bet Hitchcock read this story more than once!
  • (4/5)
    Excellent novel studying the different impacts that murdering someone has on different personalities.
  • (4/5)
    fantastic book, depressing story
  • (4/5)
    Excellent novel studying the different impacts that murdering someone has on different personalities.
  • (5/5)
    An absorbing novel, an early version of a noir. It is a naturalistic "study" of a loveless couple, an affair, a murder, and a descent into madness that, as you might guess, ends badly.

    The novel generally has a very tight economy, with four main characters, four supporting characters, very few other walk-on parts, and the majority set in one location. It was considered shocking at the time due to its relatively open depictions of sexuality, crime, and punishment. It still is somewhat "shocking," to the degree that anything is, most notably as the lovers taunt the stroke-ridden mother of their victim--who is unable to communicate their confession to her visitors.

    Zola's preface describes the book in quasi-scientific terms, as a scientific observation that takes an inevitable course that he did not decide. He places himself at odds with the romantics, but the novel itself shares many of the same dramas and conventions--and is thus considerably more interesting than the naturalistic description it claims to be.
  • (4/5)
    A weak woman marries a weak cousin at the request of her strong Aunt. She has a long affair with the husband's friend, the husband dies, the lovers quarrel and plot to kill the other, have remorse and commit suicide before the Aunt who enjoys the spectacle as punishment for the woman who was responsible for her son's sad life. Hoo, boy!
  • (2/5)
    So disappointed with this book. Horrible repetitive writing. No characterization. It's like a poor knockoff of "Crime and punishment". I may have chosen a poor translation as I didn't do my usual research but that only bears so much responsibility.
  • (5/5)
    4½ stars for the audiobook narrated by Kate Winslet; 4* for the book itself. Her voice & pronunciation were both delightful, and she managed to capture the horrors of Therese and Laurent without being ghoulish. While none of the characters in this novel are very nice, Zola manages to make them human and thus understandable. Immensely readable, this tale of lust and murder focuses on the psychological toll of committing murder. I am glad that I read it (well, actually mostly listened to the audiobook edition) but doubt I would ever reread this.
  • (2/5)
    This starts off as a great story, but from about half-way in, it gets repetitive and unnecessarily drawn-out. The final scene was as much a relief for me reading it as it was for the main characters
  • (5/5)
    This book is alive. From the first to the last I saw the story came to life and I was drawn so completely in. It made my heart beat a little faster, and even now I have put the book down, slept and lived through another day, it is still in my head and my heart.On one hand the story is utterly modern: and it is timeless. It would be so easy to reset in in any period since it was published, and equally easy to take it back through the centuries.Because this is a story of humanity. Of what people may do to get what they want, and of how they may be destroyed if they reach too far, if they cross certain lines.A story of emptiness, passion, horror, despair, guilt, revenge …Thérèse was the daughter of a French sailor and a native woman. Her father took his sister, a haberdasher, to raise with her son. Camille, a bright but sickly child. It was expected that Thérèse and Camille would marry, and marry they did. Not because either one had feelings for the another, but because it didn’t occur to either of them to do anything else, or that life could offer anything more than they already knew.Zola painted a picture of dark and dull lives, and yet he held me. Somehow, I don’t know how, he planted the idea that something would happen, that it was imperative that I continued to turn the pages.When Camille tried to pull away from his protective mother life changed. Thérèse met Laurent, a friend of her husband who was everything that her husband was not. A passionate, obsessive relationship grew between them. Their feelings were tangible.They feared discovery. They knew what they wanted, and they were oblivious to anything else. And so they acted.That act is stunning. Shocking. A flash of light in a dark story, and it is executed quite brilliantly.It may sound like an end, but it came early in the story.The knowledge of what they had done, the consequences of what they had done, were corrosive. For Thérèse. For Laurent. And for their relationship.For a while it isn’t clear where the story will go. The pair seem trapped, in lives overtaken by guilt, horror and despair. But then something snaps. A downward spiral leads to a devastating conclusion.Zola handles all of this magnificently.The bleak street, the house, where Thérèse and her family lived and worked was described so vividly, the atmosphere was so claustrophic, it was utterly real.And he deployed his cast – four principals, four supporting players, and a cat – so cleverly. Each was essential. Each had more than one role to play. Their story has broad strokes, and it has small details too, and they all work together beautifully.The story is desperately dark, but it is honest and never gratuitous. And the story is paramount; everything else is there to support the story, and it is woven in so well that it is never a distraction. You could stop to observe if you chose, or you could be quite naturally swept along by events.It’s greatest strength is its creator’s understanding of humanity. That allowed him to bring flawed, fallible, utterly real human beings to life on the page. To lay bare their hearts and souls. And to make the evolution of their lives, the extraordinary things that happen, completely understandable.And so it was that the skill of the author, and the understanding of the author, make this book compelling, horrific, and desperately sad.
  • (4/5)
    If you think serious depravity is a theme confined to 20th century literature or later, you need to read Therese Raquin. This book paints a brutal and unrelenting story of two amoral people who will even fake the appearance of guilt and remorse. At first I was put off by the repetition. In the beginning it was the grungy arcade, shop and claustrophobic rooms where Therese and family spend most of their lives. Then it was the description of that life and what led to present circumstances. Each section of forward progress is really over-the-top and repetitive, but once Zola is done and moves beyond, it’s pretty much left in the past. Which is good because the sheer emotional turmoil is enough to cope with from one time frame to the next.It’s that emotional turmoil that had me at the breaking point for believability. No, I’ve never been a murderer or an adulteress, so I don’t know what that kind of guilt can do to a person, but it seemed like drama for drama’s sake. Either in the narrative style, or in the intent and motivations of the characters. Whichever it was, it felt alien, like it did in Crime and Punishment. All the murderers in these tales have many a justification for their crimes ahead of time. Their victims deserve to be killed. The killers have the right to do away with their victims because justice is on their side. But after the killing is done, all fall prey to their own twisted psyches which feed on escalating guilt if not exactly remorse.For Therese and Laurent, they wait so long to engineer their eventual marriage, that any passion they manufactured for each other (out of propinquity and ennui) is gone; burned out by the act of violence they committed and has gone unpunished and undetected. Camille’s death was and will forever be an accident to the world and what is more natural than to bring Camille’s widow and best friend together in a union to honor the drowned man. By the time they connive their way into their legitimate relationship, all they have left is fear, guilt, self-pity, and hatred for each other. Zola describes it well in one short sentence - “Waiting had extinguished the flame that had formerly fired them.”Some say that Therese is portrayed as a more base creature than Laurent and is the victim of the writer’s misogyny and chauvinism, but I didn’t feel it was unbalanced. Laurent is described as not caring if he hurt Camille or his mother. He’s brutish, lazy and delusional about his right to live a completely idle life on the money Therese will inherit from Madame Raquin. His “love” for Therese is brought on by the fact that he cannot have her, not from anything genuine. I found the use of the word sweehearts to describe what they are to each other to be the height of irony and I don’t know whether to attribute it to Zola or the translation. Either way it is the perfect antithesis of their true nature. As bad as Laurent is, Therese is a perfect match for him. She manipulates Laurent to violence and uses this to engineer some sort of pardon in her own mind. She abases herself before Madame Raquin and though the old woman is beyond speech, determines that she does in fact forgive Therese for killing her son. With these ideas twisting in her brain, she attempts to live a life outside of her household and tries on loose living and drink for a while. So does Laurent. It doesn’t work to relieve them of their hallucinations of the dead man and they are inexorably drawn back together in a spiral of increasing violence and hate.The gothic heights of perverted morality and atmosphere are pretty thick toward the end and the Poe vibe is even stronger. Their impending madness is always in the forefront of the narrative and it doesn’t take much to see where this will end up. With Madame Raquin’s paralysis a la Noirtier being the absolute capper on the whole situation, the tension escalates to the inevitable conclusion which, really, is the only way it could end and it satisfies. Therese and Laurent deserved each other and were true to their natures to the bitter end.
  • (4/5)
    It's easy to see why Thérèse Raquin launched Zola's career, with its affecting imagery and dramatic scenes. It's also easy to see that this is early Zola, when the author was still figuring out pacing and how to blend his moralizing and his storytelling together. Overall, this is a good book, but a bit unbalanced.

    First off, the good- even in this early book, Zola can set a great scene. He deftly establishes the character of Thérèse as a free spirit boxed in by circumstances and forced to watch her life slip away. When she is surrounded by her husband's friends at the weekly dinner party and imagines herself "buried at the bottom of the tomb, in company with mechanical corpses," you understand and sympathize with her. This is without Zola adding any malicious characters or making Thérèse into a victim: the novel emphasizes that the husband Thérèse hates so much is not evil, just as later on the book emphasizes that Thérèse and Laurent aren't cruel. The characters are what they are, all brutes (a term that Zola overuses throughout this work), but not monsters. The great scenes continue throughout the book- Thérèse and Laurent's early romance, where a stolen kiss is like a "blinding flash of lightning in a leaden sky." Later, the murder of Camille oozes with tension, and after he is gone the nearly-paralyzed Madame Raquin attempting to reveal his murder at a dinner party is a great piece of suspense. The killing of the cat by Laurent and the accompanying visuals are memorable, as is the final scene of the book, not to mention the famous morgue scene. In short, the writing hits many high notes, and, while they devolve a bit in the second half of the book, for the most part the characters avoid falling into tired archetypes.

    Unfortunately, the story is not consistently great throughout. Zola has the affair escalate to murder rather quickly, so that I was told of the infatuation between Thérèse and Laurent but didn't have time to feel it. Then, once the murder occurs, Zola has the perpetrators wallow in their guilt for far too long, to the extent that the later half of the book tended to drag at times. There's nothing wrong with depicting the murder as having ruined the relationship, or with exploring the descent into vice and fear of betrayal that haunts both the characters, but the endless mention of Camille's drowned corpse occupying their lives and the sleepless nights of Thérèse and Laurent went on for so long that it dulled the impact of their grief and regret. The emphasis on how terrible the two felt after the murder made it eventually seem as though Zola wasn't so much telling a story as he was moralizing on the sin of murder, even though Zola insterestingly depicts Thérèse and Laurent as having in some ways been reborn through the act of murder (Thérèse with her adventure novels and Laurent with his art).

    This is a short novel, so even shaving off twenty pages from the wallowing section and adding twenty more to the affair section could have significantly rebalanced the book and, in my opinion, made it noticeably better. Still, though, because the impressive imagery and individual scenes this story was well done overall. Not as good as Germinal, to be sure, but there's enough good stuff here that I'm excited to read La Bête Humaine, wherein Zola tackles similar subject matter with a more experienced hand. I give this book 3.5 stars, rounding up to 4.
  • (4/5)
    Thérèse Raquin is one of Zola's early works published when he was 27 years old. The writing style is very energetic, in fact Zola tries too hard. But it's still a powerful story, despite extended overly-emotional passages that turn his characters into amateur drama students. Zola existed in that middle ground between Romanticism and Modernism - there is overwrought sentimental emotion of Romanticism combined with the realism and symbolism of Modernism. This is my 8th Zola novel. I don't know what it is about Zola and smell but once again I came away feeling like I had sniffed the dirty undergarments of unsavory Paris. And once again I thought the first third of the novel was the best as he paints character and scenery portraits - when it goes internal and Zola relies on outdated notions of human behavior it becomes wearisome.
  • (4/5)
    The story is of a young girl, daughter of the brother of Madame Raquin and a woman from Algeria who is brought to Madame Raquin to raise after the mother dies. Madame Raquin has one son Camille Raquin who is sickly and spoiled. Madame Raquin marries her son and Therese to each other. Therese later becomes involved an an affair. The story is about the affair and murder. The author’s purpose in writing the novel is to “study temperaments” Therefore there is a detached and scientific approach to the story and the work is considered an example of Naturalism. Themes include punishment and imprisonment, temperaments and the interaction of these temperaments. Therese is melancholic, Laurent is sanguine, Camille is phlegmatic. It was made into film, TV and theatrical adaptations. What I liked; it was a story easy to follow, the characters were such that it was hard to like any of them. You want to feel sorry for Therese and Laurent is detestable. Madame and Camille Raquin have little to evoke any sympathy. Still the story is good. The narration by Winslet is very good. Her voice is clear and easy to listen. I give it 3.5 stars. It would have been higher except for its detachment. The author studies adultery and murder and the devastating effects it has on those that make that choice. Of the three temperaments, Camille’s was the easiest to find merit. He was rather spoiled but he had a desire to work and work he found and work he did. More than what can be said for Laurent.
  • (4/5)
    Kate Winslet reads Zola’s proto-noir tale of adultery and murder in the tone that I would have imagined Zola using: detached and disgusted. She brought the characters, male and female, to life in their short bursts of dialogue: angry, unhinged Therese; loud, brutish Laurent; the fools whose great goal in life is playing dominoes with what they imagine is a perfect family.
  • (3/5)
    Zola’s first major novel suffers mainly from him trying too hard, presumably because he was a young writer. The premise is straightforward: Therese Raquin is trapped in a marriage of convenience to her sickly cousin, Camille, and under the watchful eye of his mother. Along comes her husband’s friend Laurent, and sparks fly. To describe how it plays out from there would be to spoil the plot, which is pretty thin, and plods along.Zola is guilty scientifically of believing in the theory of the day that people could be categorized by their temperaments (bilious, sanguine, nervous, and lymphatic), and artistically of explaining his characters actions per his theories, as opposed to letting the reader observe and draw their own conclusions. In addition, the description of animal passion, haunting guilt, and the device of a bite on Laurent’s neck are all overwrought. However, there were a few redeeming aspects of the book: (1) the description of the public viewing of the morgue for unidentified bodies in 19th century Paris, which was shocking and true, (2) the torturous fate of Madame Raquin, and (3) the minor character Grivet, who Zola skillfully has playing the oaf on all occasions. These aren’t enough to pull the rating up higher than a three though, and I would recommend Germinal or Nana from the more mature Zola instead.
  • (5/5)
    An absorbing novel, an early version of a noir. It is a naturalistic "study" of a loveless couple, an affair, a murder, and a descent into madness that, as you might guess, ends badly.The novel generally has a very tight economy, with four main characters, four supporting characters, very few other walk-on parts, and the majority set in one location. It was considered shocking at the time due to its relatively open depictions of sexuality, crime, and punishment. It still is somewhat "shocking," to the degree that anything is, most notably as the lovers taunt the stroke-ridden mother of their victim--who is unable to communicate their confession to her visitors.Zola's preface describes the book in quasi-scientific terms, as a scientific observation that takes an inevitable course that he did not decide. He places himself at odds with the romantics, but the novel itself shares many of the same dramas and conventions--and is thus considerably more interesting than the naturalistic description it claims to be.
  • (4/5)
    Nature and circumstances seemed to have made this man for this woman, and to have driven them towards one another. Together, the woman, nervous and dissembling, the man, lustful, living like an animal, they made a strongly united couple. They complemented one another, they protected one another. In the evening, at table, in the pale light of the lamp, you could feel the strength of the bond between them, seeing Laurent’s heavy, smiling face and the silent, impenetrable mask of Therese. – from Therese Raquin, page 43 -Therese Raquin is an unhappy, somber woman who has married her cousin, Camille – a sickly man who repulses her. They live together with Camille’s mother Mme Raquin in a dingy apartment in Paris and the joyless days crawl past, with the only interruption being a weekly Thursday night domino game with visitors. So when Camille’s co-worker and friend Laurent arrives one evening, it is not surprising that his ruddy good looks and easy-going nature gain Therese’s attention. Soon the two are engaged in an unseemly affair right beneath the noses of Camille and his mother. The affair becomes more and more passionate, and the two lovers hatch a scheme to rid themselves of Camille so that they can marry each other.Therese Raquin is a psychological thriller of sorts which explores the psyche of the criminal mind and seeks to examine the repercussions of a criminal act. The plot is simple and the novel takes place primarily in the dreary apartment of the Raquin’s. To fully understand the novel, the reader should understand some of the science of the time. Zola, at only twenty-seven years old when he published Therese Raquin, was interested in a theory of human psychology which was well-accepted in the mid-nineteenth century…namely that of human temperament being the key to understanding human behavior. Simply put, human temperament could be divided into four basic categories: bilious, sanguine, nervous and lymphatic. At the time of the writing of this novel, doctors believed a person’s temperament could be altered by circumstance. It is this idea which motivated Zola to write Therese Raquin. Faced with fierce criticism that the novel was pornographic and “putrid,” Zola added a preface to the second edition of the book where he writes:In Therese Raquin I set out to study temperament, not character. That sums up the whole book. I chose protagonists who were supremely dominated by their nerves and their blood, deprived of free will and drawn into every action of their lives by the predetermined lot of their flesh. – from the Preface of Therese Raquin, page 4 -Zola assigns Therese a nervous temperament which becomes inflamed when her love for Laurent is awakened.With the first kiss, she revealed the instincts of a courtesan. Her thirsting body gave itself wildly up to lust. It was as though she were awakening from a dream and being born to passion. She went from the feeble arms of Camille to the vigorous arms of Laurent, and the approach of a potent man gave her a shake that woke her flesh from its slumber. All the instincts of a highly-strung woman burst forth with exceptional violence. – from Therese Raquin, page 35-36 -Laurent, on the other hand, demonstrates a sanguine temperament.Underneath, he was lazy, with strong appetites and a well-defined urge to seek easy, lasting pleasures. His great, powerful body asked for nothing better than to lie idle, wallowing in constant indolence and gratification. – from Therese Raquin, page 28 -Zola uses the temperaments of the characters to demonstrate what happens when two people with these temperaments come together to commit a crime for their own personal gain. It is heady stuff.At its core, however, Therese Raquin is a classic tragedy. It is also a moral tale – examining the consequences of adultery and murder. Both Therese and Laurent are narcissists who fail to regret the evil of their actions. In pursuing their own selfish desires, they not only inflict cruelty on Mme Raquin (who loves and trust them), but they ruin their own lives in the process.Emile Zola’s writing is surprisingly accessible and modern given the time in history the story was penned. Zola quickly pulls the reader into the dark and despairing lives of his characters. This is far from an uplifting story – in fact, it is a rather depressing read. Despite that, I enjoyed getting inside the heads of these characters who are admittedly grotesque. Although psychology today does not agree with psychology in Zola’s time, some things do remain the same…namely that immoral behavior rarely results in happiness and violent crime is almost always punished, if only by the impact it has on the perpetrators’ psyche.Readers who enjoy classic literature, psychology, and crime novels will undoubtedly want to add Therese Raquin to their list of potential reads.Recommended.
  • (4/5)
    In the preface to Thérèse Raquin, Emile Zola wrote,In a word, I wanted only one thing: given a powerful man and a dissatisfied woman, to search out the beast in them, and nothing but the beast, plunge them into a violent drama and meticulously note the feelings and actions of those two beings. I have merely performed on two living bodies the analytical work that surgeons carry out on dead ones. (p 4)The book was written in 1867, when psychology and behavioral studies focused largely on the idea of "temperament." Zola chose to examine how two individuals of different temperament would respond to a set of circumstances. Enter Thérèse, a young woman abandoned by her natural father, raised by her aunt (Madame Raquin), and married to her sickly cousin Camille. She worked as an assistant in her aunt's Paris haberdashery, and helped care for Camille. Life was dull, even stifling. Camille worked in a railway company office, and soon established a regular Thursday evening dinner with colleagues at his home. One of the guests, Laurent, was young and virile, and Thérèse was instantly attracted to him. The feeling was mutual, and they quickly found themselves entangled in a passionate affair.From this point Zola explored what two people of such temperaments might do to satisfy their desires. As Thérèse and Laurent's passions escalated, their actions became more rash, culminating in an unthinkable act. Zola meticulously dissected the couple's thoughts and actions, and the impact of the act on their relationship. Things turned quite dark at this point; the claustrophobia and fear were palpable. There was never any doubt in my mind how the story would end, and yet there was still an element of suspense.Zola's writing style is detached and analytical -- like a news reporter or scientist, reporting the facts without judgment -- but he also brought 1860s Paris to life, with settings modeled on popular paintings of the day. Despite the detached style, Thérèse Raquin was an excellent character study. I actually found Madame Raquin's character most intriguing. She's somewhat of a passive bystander, and yet as the situation escalates her passivity takes on a level of importance that I did not anticipate. This book was so well-written that I was quickly hooked.
  • (1/5)
    If this had not been a selection of our book group, I would not have finished it. I think it might have been a better read in the original French, but this translation was stilted and repetitive. The characters do not seem real, nor do their actions. Their crime haunts them, but only because they both have unbelievably over-active imaginations. Zola certainly evokes the misery and the hopelessness of their lives, but I was hard-pressed to care. If this is classic literature, you can have it!
  • (5/5)
    Over 140 years old and Zola's novel still grips with it's stale and dank atmosphere of lust, betrayal and murder. Often copied but never bettered, the characters of Therese, Laurent, Camille and Madame Raquin will haunt your memory.
  • (5/5)
    This is the first novel I have read in French for many years. It was fantastic! Great characters whom you love to hate, fabulous melodramatic plot, and as always with Zola, so much to think about. This novel covers the following themes: passion, choice, consequence, what is a human being?, and much more. It is so French. I realize a translation could not flow in the same way, because English and French represent such differing cultures!
  • (4/5)
    I finished this book a while ago and just haven't had time to post about it. I've been busy knitting desperately trying to get some Christmas presents done. I really haven't been doing much reading at all. I have started a 'knitting novel' for one of my December book clubs, though.This novel by Emile Zola apparently caused quite a stir when it was first published in 1868. The novel tells the tragic story of Therese and her lover Laurent and the lengths that they go to in order to be together. For the time, the sex scenes were quite explicit, and the author was actually accused of pornography. I personally didn't think they were that explicit and don't think most people today would be offended by them. The Penguin Classics edition that I read contains a preface in which Zola defends his work against these accusations.Therese is taken in by a woman after she is orphaned and is raised with the woman's sickly son, Camille. It's just assumed by all that the two will marry one day, which they do. The three live a relatively happy life until Camille brings a young man home with him one day. Laurent awakens feelings in Therese that she has never experienced before. The two begin an affair and become obsessed with possessing each other. This is not a sweet story of a forbidden love. Instead, it quickly turns into a very dark tale, and Therese and Laurent find themselves in a living nightmare.
  • (4/5)
    Published in 1867, Thérèse Raquin is Emile Zola’s first novel and a magnificent proto-noir thriller. All the necessary elements are here -- a hot-to-trot young wife, an invalid husband, a greedy lover – all simmered together in a Parisian stew of lust, murder, deception, debauchery, and guilt. With the macabre ghoulishness of Poe and the diabolical desperation of Cain, Thérèse Raquin should be on any noir-lover's bookshelf.
  • (4/5)
    Zola painted Camille as a man devoid of redeeming features. We were routing for Laurant to finish him off so that he and Thesese could indulge their passion. However, when the moment came it was truly horrible. The downward and agonising descent into madness and eventual mutual suicide was difficult to read.
  • (3/5)
    This is really a dreary book. Zola never lets up. I felt kinda "eh" about this novel, but it's a quick read and holds one's interest.It's humorless and not very enjoyable though, so I'd probably pass if I were you.However, if you are ever considering committing a crime this book will change your mind in a flash.
  • (4/5)
    What an amazing story of a pair of lovers who decide to kill the woman's husband -- and they get away with it! -- Or do they?! Very, very interesting concept -- I loved it!