I could in no way describe Germinal as a nice book. I could, however, describe it as surprisingly enjoyable and extremely well written.
Despite one of my shortest set books, this is the one I’ve been putting off. I blame it on the blurb. Describing it as a “sociological document depicting the grim struggle between capital and labour in a coal field in Northern France” does not make it appeal to the reader. I was emphatically NOT jumping off my seat in excitement.
However, when I actually forced myself to start reading it I found it really entertaining. The characters were so vivid that I felt I was really looking in on their lives, and the sheer grit and general filth provoked a slightly morbid fascination in me. A minor warning- initially the character names can be a little confusing (we have Maheu and Maheude, Mouquet and Mouquette, Levaque and La Levaque) but other than that the narrative really flows, sweeping you deeper and deeper into the mining society.
I have since found out that Germinal is number thirteen in Zola’s twenty volume ‘Les Rougon-Macquart’ series, so I will make it my mission to track down the rest… a Project Gutenberg-based mission I suspect. I don’t know what I liked more, the unrequited love scenes or the comically gruesome death scenes… all covered in a blanket of borderline depressing description. There really is something for everyone!
So tell me, what have you been reading this week?
P.S. I get the impression that this is one of those Love/Hate kinds of books, let me know what you think!