‘The Belly of Paris,’ by Emile Zola

Novel, 1873

A heavy critique the Second Empire which was established in mid-nineteenth century France, through the fictionalised struggle and treatment of an aspiring ‘thin man’ revolutionary. Florent is pitched against the vast and stultifying displays of greed and wealth of Les Halles and the food around it, with particularly effective scenes and displays established in and around Florent’s brother’s charcuterie. The gluttony of those keeping this new excess going is played out in wonderful, relentless descriptions which immerse and batter the reader’s senses before plot movements are allowed to develop. There’s also an air of conspiracy against Florent, and all the bitching and back-biting of a fully blown gossip network in action. A tiring, but richly written book – much fuller in its descriptions than in plot events.

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