The Zolas by Méliane Marcaggi & Alice Chemama
Pub Date 17 Jun 2020
We know the brilliant writer of the Rougon-Macquart series and the committed author of the open letter “J’accuse…!” but what do we know about his private life?
Who were the women in his life? How did they help him to accomplish his work? At what sacrifice?
A remarkable fresco that takes us back to the end of the 19th century, to the heart of an ever-changing France and the city of Paris, full of artists and workers.
really enjoyed this. It tells the story of Émile Zola and Éléonore-Alexandrine Meley. What begins as a rather tender love story unfolds into something more complex and nuanced. The Zolas’ are a charismatic couple who had an enormous cultural impact on French literature and they led an interesting life. The marriage between Émile and Alexandrine forms the bedrock of the story, it is a relationship filled with grief, heartbreak, betrayal, as well as bliss, contentment, and, comfort.
Chemama’s artwork is gorgeous. It is painterly with a watercolour-like aesthetic. At points it is exquisite, of special note is her ability to show the emotions in the faces of the characters. For me, there was a real air of authenticity through the book. Marcaggi’s script is superb. It manages to balance the flaws and strengths of each character without turning them into monsters.
I think parts of the book assume that you have knowledge of French culture and history. As a result, I felt that a lot of cultural references went over my head and I think I missed some aspects of the story because of this. There is a trial section where I didn’t really understand what was happening or why.
All in all, though this book is a very pleasant read with some of the best art I’ve seen this year and a memorable story that lingers long in the memory after you have put it down.