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The seventh novel in the Rougon-Macquart cycle, Émile Zola’s L’Assommoir is irresistible. Like the best of Dickens, it tells the story of an underclass with compassion and leaves its readers emotionally bereft.
Considered one of Zola's masterpieces, L’Assommoir —a study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris—was a huge commercial success and helped establish Zola's fame and reputation throughout France and the world.
At the center of the story stands Gervaise Macquart, who starts her own laundry and for a time makes a success of it. But her husband soon squanders her earnings in the Assommoir, a local drinking spot, and gradually the pair sink into poverty and squalor and disgrace.
Zola portrays some universal truths: that the underclass has the same hopes and dreams for themselves and their children as anyone else, but their precarious finances make them vulnerable to life events that can plunge them into disaster from which there is no return.
Its publication sparked a fiery controversy that made it an overnight bestseller, and it has long since reigned as a classic of French literature.
ÉMILE ZOLA (1840 –1902) was a French writer, a major figure of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of the modern novel. Zola was nominated for both the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.