Thoughts gbyezby Émile Zola, eKindle Penguin Classics 2004 (orig 1885), 596 pages

Translation by Roger Pearson (and Notes and Introduction¹).

Audiobook gabnbylp Naxos Audio 2015, 19 hours 55 minutes, narrated by Leighton Pugh. (No translation information provided.)


Lots of good stuff on Twitter, see hashtag #GerminalAlong. Good times talking about horrible times in the mining regions of France in the 1860s.

I found three pie mentions:
p.89 “Just you wait, you dirty little scamp. I’ll teach you to make mud-pies indeed!”

p.127 “… so to he had come to recognize them, the way one recognizes amorous magpies disporting in the pear trees in the garden.”²

p.171 “…You know it’s all pie in the sky³…”

I also consider these a cousin of pie – it’s a pastry filled with goodness, so it counts.

volauvent<– a vol-au-vent.

Zola amazes me. I’ve read Thérèse Raquin and was blown away by the grit and darkness, the skill in the story-telling, the audacity to write it in the first place. [My review of that here.] It doesn’t do much to inspire a love for much of humanity – he skewers everyone; but it is a reminder that literature is art. Germinal solidifies my understanding of the ‘naturalism literary movement’. Oh I wish I had majored in literature in college. Maybe I’ll go back when I retire.

Germinal couldn’t sound more boring and yet it is so alive! He makes history touchable / “feel-able” / real and I see why he is and was held in high regard. Skip it if you aren’t in the least bit curious, definitely read it if you want to experience history in all its grittiness and be transported to another place and time. Zola manages to capture so many motivations and is incisive yet gentle with all. Brilliant.

Rating:  Five slices of pie.

BIG SHOUT OUT to all my readalongers!  Especially Top Host Melissa (here’s her review).



1 – I didn’t read the Notes and I read the Intro after, as recommended.

2 – Unverified internet research has told me that the word magpie came before ‘pie’ and may have influenced what we call these pastries. See here.

³ – I found a Slate magazine article explaining the phrase ‘pie in the sky’: … coined by a champion of the American proletariat. “Pie in the sky” comes from an early 20th-century folk song written by labor activist Joe Hill, aka Joe Hillstrom, a legendary member of the Industrial Workers of the World.


Copyright © 2007-2016. Care’s Online Book Club. All rights reserved. This post was originally posted by Care from Care’s Online Book Club.  It should not be reproduced without express written permission.


11 thoughts on “Germinal

  1. I’ll admit that I did not even consider participating in the readalong because the book sounded boring to me. I regret it now considering everyone, and I do mean everyone, in the readalong seems to have loved every minute of it. Serves me right for ever thinking a classic can be boring.

    1. I can admit that I only read it because – despite how tediously boring I was afraid it would be – SO MANY (and I mean lots, TONS) people swear it is in their top 5 eveh! Plus, I had read Therese Raquin and knew the Zola is terribly TERRIBLY good. I suggest if you want to read a Zola, do the audio with Kate Winslet. How do you spell that sound that is like an ‘Unh’ that you make when food so good. I know that I gave it 3 stars in my review of that but it has gained favor in my memory since…

  2. I did not expect to read a review of Germinal and come away with a craving for pie! I have read only one Zola books but it was really good. I have this one on my shelf. Clearly I should actually read it sometime!

  3. This summed it up perfectly for me… “Germinal couldn’t sound more boring and yet it is so alive!”
    I wasn’t excited about this one. I think that’s why I wanted to host a readalong, I wanted the support! Just like you mentioned, so many people recommended this one to me. Now I get it. The writing, the characters, the descriptions! Zola pulls you in and breaks your heart. Thanks for reading with me! Also, I loved the postcards!

Welcome! I invite you to comment. If for some reason commenting is troublesome, pls send email to BkClubCare [at] Gmail

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s