Review: Therese Raquin

Therese Raquin, by Emile Zola, is a compelling and intense read. Each word is positioned to evoke emotion in the reader.

Therese Raquin was brought to live with her aunt Madame Raquin, and her cousin Camille, son of Madame Raquin. They eventually marry, a marriage of convenience and monetary means. The marriage is a lackluster one, in part, due to Camille’s frailness and overbearing mother.

Along comes Laurent, a coworker of Camille’s, and herein lies the beginning of the end for the four main characters. From the moment Laurent enters their lives, life as they know it is not the same.

The story line in Therese Raquin is a testament to horror, evil, individual disintegration, and the study of psychological impact and temperament regarding one’s actions. Morals are a thing of the past, and the present is filled with tortuous moments, from morning until evening, in the lives of Therese and Laurent.

And, for this reader, the words evoked a variety of emotions. From an adulterous affair to murder, this novel is infused with amazingly brutal word-images. The word imagery is gripping, and filled with vivid visuals that left this reader riding a roller coaster of emotions. The starkness and bluntness is not sugar-coated in any aspect. Zola incorporates the destructiveness with minute and vivid details that left this reader almost gasping for breath, at times.

Zola was, in my opinion, ahead of his time in depicting domestic violence (emotionally, physically and mentally), and its affects and effects on those who have contributed to the horrible circumstances, and those on the receiving end, of the main characters in the novel. The darkness, the guilt, and how the guilt torments the murderers is exhibited in depth.

It is a difficult read, in many aspects, especially with the no-holds barred vivid word imagery. The visuals enhance the story line, and I feel that without the horrific and often grizzly depictions, the story would be bland, and not profound, regarding the psychological study of the two main characters. No minute detail was left out.

Emile Zola’s sense of humanity, its goodness and its evil, is incredible. He was a master writer, and the novel, Therese Raquin, is a defining novel in that respect.

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