Thérèse Raquin by Émile Zola (Audio Book)

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zola Narrated by Paul Freeman

Five words from the blurb: loveless, marriage, affair, murder, revenge

Zola is one of those authors I always wanted to try, but kept putting off as I was intimidated by his reputation. I really shouldn’t have worried – Thérèse Raquin wasn’t difficult to read. Instead I found an engaging book, deserving of its classic status. 

Thérèse Raquin is a young woman who is forced to marry her sickly cousin, Camille. She resents the time they spend together, especially when she falls in love with Camille’s best friend, Laurent. Thérèse and Laurent begin a passionate affair, revelling in the secrecy of their relationship. Eventually they realise they cannot continue like this forever and plot to kill Camille. This leads to a gripping narrative that is packed with atmosphere and emotion.

I listened the the BBC audio production of this book and I think that this the perfect way to experience this story. The text can appear quite dense and difficult on the page, but Paul Freeman did a fantastic job narrating this unabridged version. He made the story come alive and the difficulties seemed to melt away when the words were put into the mouths of the characters.

This book probably contains the best portrayal of jealousy and regret that I’ve ever read. The complex relationships felt realistic and the fear and paranoia of this couple jumped from the page. I completely understood the thoughts and emotions of everyone involved and was entranced throughout; longing to know what would happen, but simultaneously dreading the conclusion.

He turned the same idea over in his head until daybreak. Previous to the visit of Thérèse, the idea of murdering Camille had not occurred to him. He had spoken of the death of this man, urged to do so by the facts, irritated at the thought that he would be unable to meet his sweetheart any more. And it was thus that a new corner of his unconscious nature came to be revealed.

Beneath the dark and twisted story the book was packed with symbolism. I’m sure that it could be read multiple times, with new layers of meaning being discovered each time. It is amazing to think that it was first published in 1867 – it must have been even more shocking back then.

Thérèse Raquin is a powerful warning about the danger of wanting what you can’t have. I can’t fault this book and it has shot straight onto my list of favourites.


Have you read this book? Did you enjoy it?

Which of Zola’s books do you suggest I try next?


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  1. This sounds amazing! It looks like I’ll get over my intimidation by Zola sooner than I’d imagined!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I’ve been researching Zola today and I think the intimidation might come from the 20 book series he wrote, not his individual books. There is no need to be scared of this one – I hope you decide to try it soon :-)

  2. Amy says:

    I’ve avoided reading Zola because I’ve been intimidated by him and his writing. But I like your idea of listening to one of his books. This one sounds very intriguing and compelling. My interest really piqued when you said this book has the “best portrayal of jealousy and regret you’ve ever read”. The story sounds gripping and heart-wrenching. Of course, I’m now curious about how it ends.

    Thank you Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Alex, It is great to hear that I’ve inspired you to give it a try. I hope you can get hold of a copy and enjoy it as much as I did.

  3. Jane says:

    I’m so pleased you rated this so highly because I think it’s extraordinary. I’ve not read much more Zola, but I do find his work very readable.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jane, It is good to hear you’re a fan too :-)

  4. I loved this book, too, Jackie. It was a favorite in 2009. I enjoyed The Ladies’ Paradise slightly less, but still though it was very good. His short stories are also well worth reading and I have a couple more Zola novels waiting on the shelf…

    1. Jackie says:

      JoAnn, Sorry to hear that ‘The Ladies’ Paradise’ isn’t quite as good, but I guess this one is going to be very hard to top :-)

  5. stujallen says:

    I may try the audio version of this always looking for an audiobook Jackie that really appeals I read so few ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, It is hard to find great audio books so it is well worth trying to get hold of this one. I found my copy in the local library. Perhaps yours will have a copy too?

  6. Ifi says:

    Jackie, that is good to know. I get intimidated by reading certain classics, and Zola is one of them, so to hear you say that it was easy reading/ listening…. (and as I am just getting into audio books)… will give this a try.

    1. Jackie says:

      Ifi, This is a great place to start. I hope you can get hold of a copy because I am sure you’ll love it.

  7. Karen says:

    Glad you overcame your fear of Zola who is one of my favourite writers. He writes about characters with such emotional intensity it can be overwhelming at times. Try ‘Germinal’ if you want another powerful one by him. It’s part of his series but each can be read independently.

    1. Jackie says:

      Karen, Emotional intensity is exactly what I look for in books. I’m really looking forward to trying more of his work. *fingers crossed my family take note of my Christmas wishlist*


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