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Therese Raquin



Translated by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly (1853-1922).

Therese Raquin was originally published in French by Emile Zola in the 19th century. It was also originally released one chapter at a time in a Parisian newspaper and then was later compiled into a novel. The story contains quite a bit of symbolism most of which relates to animals. It is also quite scary but at the same time very gripping and interesting. Most of the symbolism is lost in the English translations and so reading the original French is much better. It is the kind of book you will want to read more than once.--Submitted by AnnaLaura Brown

This novel was described by Zola as an attempt to "forensically examine" the symptoms, physiological and psychological effects and consequences of the exercise of forbidden, adulterous passions on the part of the main protagonists, Therese Raquin and her lover, the feckless, would be artist, Laurent. The background histories of both are presented, as well as their current circumstances (the symptoms), enabling us to understand the motivations for their later actions: namely, adultery and murder, and their consequences: madness and suicide. Although Zola's attempt to portray the situation in a purely scientific, detached manner is unsuccessful (as any such experiment done through the medium of literature must be) the story of the two lovers and their ill-fated affair is a highly engaging one and Zola's considerable skills as a writer are effectively employed in this novel.--Submitted by Elizabeth Madden

Thérèse Raquin is leading a life of utter misery. Maybe not at first sight – she, Mme Raquin (her aunt and mother-in-law) and her husband Camille are fine financially -, but she really just rolled into her marriage not knowing what she was supposed to be feeling for her husband. Her aunt selfishly decided to unite her adopted niece and son, wishing for a long and quiet life. As the family move to Paris and run a sewing shop in a run down shopping gallery, they start to entertain every Thursday evening. Mr Michaud, an old and rekindled friend of Mme Raquin and ex police commissar, his son Olivier, also with the police, and wife Susanne and Grivet, a senior colleague of Camille. When Camille then brings home a selfish colleague, Laurent, a former painter, Thérèse becomes aware of feelings she never knew she had. They start a mad and daring affair in her own bedroom, but as his boss demands of him that he take no longer a long lunch,… how can they be together? The only way is getting rid of Camille. On an idyllic summer outing, Camille drowns and no-one suspects a thing, not Mr Michaud, not Grivet, not Olivier who even vouches for Laurent’s heroic attempt to rescue Camille, not even Mme Raquin, not even the students who were out at the same time. Thérèse and Laurent play their cruel comedy and eventually get married, by her aunt and clever Mr Michaud’s ‘design’, but the image of a drowned and semi-decayed Camille in the mortuary haunts them. As they each are unable to accept what they have done, they see him everywhere, even in the cat François who is eventually cruelly crushed against the wall across their house. They would like to fall into each other’s arms, but are unable to do so without seeing Camille’s spectre. Eventually, they are unable to see each other without seeing him. Then they each from their own side take a decision that will rid them forever of Camille’s spectre and also of any memories at all. It does not really go according to plan and ends in a Shakespearean way, inevitable for a tragedy, but unnecessary if the characters had not acted so cowardly in the first place.--Submitted by kiki1982

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I've read this story many times over the years and I find as I get older my perspective of this story changes slightly. I would love to know what other reader's thoughts are! Debrasue;)

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