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A Love Affair by Émile Zola
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A Love Affair (1878)

by Émile Zola

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In the eighth novel of the Rougon-Macquart cycle, the central character is Hélène Grandjean, née Mouret. Recently widowed shortly after having moved to Paris from Marseilles with her now deceased husband and their child, she now lives in a cozy apartment with her daughter Jeanne and a servant. Jeanne has inherited the nervous illnesses of her great-grandmother and when the novel begins, has just been suffering from seizures. The bulk of the novel describes Hélène's struggle between her need to be a good mother to Jeanne, a very difficult and temperamental child who happens to be maniacally jealous of anyone whom she suspects might take away an ounce of her mother's affections from her, and her growing passion for Dr. Deberle, who is her landlord and neighbour and comes to Jeanne's rescue in the first pages of the book. This was my least favourite book in the series so far. Jeanne is a detestable child, and spends the better part of the novel being very sick and manipulative, and Hélènes affections for her daughter and the good doctor are equally filled with pathos. Much of the novel takes place in the close confines of the one-bedroom apartment, making for a very claustrophobic feeling, only leavened by Zola's description of the Paris scenery at each and every last chapter in the five-part novel. That being said, bad Zola is still Zola. Not particularly recommended unless you, like me, have set for yourself the task of reading the whole series. ( )
  Smiler69 | Oct 6, 2012 |
Un des plus tendre de la série des Rougon... ( )
  Lafeelibellule | May 3, 2008 |
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La veilleuse, dans un cornet bleuâtre, brûlait sur la cheminée, derrière un livre, dont l'ombre noyait toute une moitié de la chambre.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
'For a night of love' is a short story and shouldn't be confused with 'Un Page d'Amour' (A love affair) book 8 in the Rougon-Macquat series.
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This fine novel reveals an unfamiliar side of Zola's art...It is a simple, poignant story of frustrated love and renunciation, and a penetrating glimpse into the terrors of childish jealousy. Henri, a young doctor, summoned one night to a little girl's sick-bed, befriends her mother Helene, a widow; the growth of love between them, and Helene's vain struggles to resist it, are powerfully and movingly drawn. The force which finally defeats passion is neither convention nor conscience, nor sympathy for Henri's frivolous but warm-hearted wife: it is the frantic, possessive love of the child Jeanne, a delicate and neurotic creature who fights to separate the lovers with all the weapons in her power, and succeeds at the cost of her life. Paris forms the background to the story, the Paris landscape seen through the window of Helene's room, drawn at all hours and in all seasons, in a series of unforgettable word-pictures. But Zola's mastery of atmosphere and description needs no comment; what is most remarkable about this novel is his precise and sympathetic comprehension of the intricacies of the human heart.
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