Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nana by Emile Zola

"Everyone has been harassing me with Nana ever since this morning. I've met over twenty people and it's been nothing but Nana this and Nana that! How should I know anything about her? Do you think I know every girl in Paris? Nana is one of Bordenave's discoveries. She must be something magnificent!"

The Good:

Nana is the discovery of Bordenave, manager of the Variety Theatre and plays the role of Venus in the operetta "La belle Helene". She doesn't have the face or acting chops of a great actor but she has a magnetic presence and electrifies the crowd with her performance. She charms the men around her, achieving all her heart desires but her insatiable personality may end up destroying everyone and everything around her.

"She could stir the flesh with a gesture of her little finger. Men's backs were arched, vibrating as though invisible bows had been drawn across their muscles; wisps of hair rose on their necks as though blown by a woman's warm breath".

I loved the bawdiness of this book and Zola's freedom to describe the underbelly of Parisian society. It's amusing to think what people must have thought when it was first published in 1880. The dinner party scene was amusing and I liked all the various quirky details of the guests.

There are some amazing lines in this book that you'll love but they only pop up every so often. "...the Galerie Saint-Marc, a sordid place with dark shops: a cobbler who never had any customers, dusty furniture stores, a smoky lending library whose shaded lamps slept through the evening in a green glow"

I first heard about this book through the movie, "The Life of Emile Zola" which I enjoyed. I expected something amazing from this book but as you can imagine, movies often blow things out of proportion.

The Bad:

The first section set during the operetta was great but I couldn't keep track of all the various characters who walked in and out of scenes. I didn't know who was who and how they were connected.

Also, I don't know if we were supposed to hate Nana or not but I found her to be extremely self-obsessed. There's an ugly garishness to her personality that comes out , everywhere.

The Ugly:

The middle section of the book was boring, very much like the entirety of "Lorna Doone". A lot goes on but almost nothing actually happens. On the whole the book was disappointing and I don't recommend it.

Rating: 2.5/5

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