ing her, he seized hold of her by the arms, shook her violently and sent her sprawling upon the bed of the children, who recommenced crying. And he lay down again, mumbling, like a man resolving on something that he previously hesitated to do:
"You don't know what you've done, Gervaise. You've made a big mistake; you'll see."
For an instant the children continued sobbing. Their mother, who remained bending over the bed, held them both in her embrace, and kept repeating the same words in a monotonous tone of voice.
"Ah! if it weren't for you! My poor little ones! If it weren't for you! If it weren't for you!"
Stretched out quietly, his eyes raised to the faded strip of chintz, Lantier no longer listened, but seemed to be buried in a fixed idea. He remained thus for nearly an hour, without giving way to sleep, in spite of the fatigue which weighed his eyelids down.
He finally turned toward Gervaise, his face set hard in determination. She had gotten the children up and dressed and had almost fini
A tough but great tale
L’Assomoir means club or cudgel and it is derived from the French verb assommer meaning to club or beat down. The title refers to name of a local bar. It also signals the fate of the protagonist, Gervaise and her family.
The story is a realistic and unrelenting description of the fall and degradation of a French working class family living in the slums of Paris during the mid 19th century. Their fate however, is not a simple product of circumstances rather it is the consequence of their choices. This ultimately adds to the tragedy as we wish for their success but instead are forced to watch with growing apprehension as opportunities are wasted and the family spirals downward on a path to disintegration and destruction.
Bottom line: A memorable novel, a great novel but expect a beating as well.
*Also noteworthy, Gervaise’s children survive to become the central characters of two other masterpieces by Zola, Nana and Germinal.