Having read several of the Rougon-Macquart novels by Zola in my thirties and enjoyed them I began to revisit them and other works by him recently to see whether they might appeal to today's younger reader (at A level and above).
I dipped into La bête humaine which takes the railway system as its background and read up on the impact of the work at the time. Its lively plot is more than reminiscent of present day social-realism. Apparently the subject matter was so controversial that it disbarred Zola entry to the Académie Française.
Spurred on by the realisation that "The Paradise" BBC drama was based on Au Bonheur des Dames I revisited that too and was enlightened as to the origins of department store (and latterly supermarket) sales and marketing practice.
It is very appealing to read Zola whose use of language is crystal clear, very little different to current French usage. Seeing into the 19th century world through Zola's encyclopaedic brain is an experience indeed and one to be savoured-and there is so much to go at!
On casting around a little I found that all of the Zola content is available in e-book format. Most titles are also available on the audio-littérature site which also includes many smaller, lesser known works.
I decided to create a Pinterest board to demonstrate what was available. Find the link in the right hand column.
For teachers wanting to give their students something different to research for Oxbridge interviews, they could do worse than get students to dip into Zola whose work is still so fresh in its appeal today.
Click to visit Pinterest board on Emile Zola