The Joy of Life

The Joy of Life

Pauline Quenu, the daughter of shopkeepers in the Parisian business district Les Halles (see The Fat and the Thin, aka The Belly of Paris), is taken in by relatives on the coast of Normandy following the death of her parents.

While the family takes advantage of Pauline, using up the inheritance her parents left to her, Pauline is gradually transformed into a dejected and resigned young woman.

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All the finesse, the talent and the depth of Zola are united in the brilliant irony of this promising title The Joy of Life, which introduces one of the blackest novels in his Rougon-Macquart series. From this healthy child, who is deprived of all authority over her own existence, the life and iniquitous choices of her guardians (especially those of the ambitious Madame Chanteau) will make a fragile young woman a prey to every blow of fate.

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This book, to put it simply, is about a young woman, Pauline Quenu, is the nicest, most charitable to the point of obsession person in the world, who would do anything to help her impoverished adopted family (her parents, the butchers from the previous novel, died) and especially her cousin, the whiny, insane Lazare, with whom she falls in love with, and then, promptly, everyone treats you like utter shit no matter how noble and pure a spirit you have.

Émile François Zola was an influential French novelist, the most important example of the literary school of naturalism, and a major figure in the political liberalization of France. The self-proclaimed leader of French naturalism, Zola's works inspired operas such as those of Gustave Charpentier, notably Louise in the 1890s.