Texts that deal with the subject of the dynamic between the rich and the poor, or the upper classes and the working class people have interested me for a while, so this Zola novel seemed an obvious choice.
Apart from the fact that it is a Zola novel, meaning it is by no means an easy read, it was not a let down!
From the very start, as is usually the way with Zola, the description of settings and scenes made for a very vivid image of the characters and their surroundings. I found Zola’s use of metaphor, using food to represent a person’s position in society or among others, particularly interesting as I had never seen social class represented in such a way before.
I also found it very interesting how he uses the microcosm of the Parisian market to represent the goings on in the city on a larger scale. It means that the reader is able to establish a better sense of ‘knowing’ each character, because of the small-scale setting, meaning they can predict how a character may react towards certain situations later in the narrative. The microcosm setting also means there are fewer characters to ‘get to know’, which is important for a long novel, but also means that it is easier to see character development within each. Personally, I mostly enjoyed seeing the development of Lisa, as I think her character shows the most change, particularly towards her brother in law, Florent.
On the same subject as Florent, I believe that he worked as a brilliant protagonist. I found it incredibly easy to empathise with and sympathise for him, constant willing the best for him for the entirety of the narrative.
What I particularly liked about Le Ventre de Paris is the fact that it shows that one’s position in society is not fixed, and because of this changeable nature, it is not to be taken for granted. I liked seeing how, not only characters facing the changes reacted, whether they were climbing up or falling down the social ladder. It was also interesting to see the cut-throat nature of business and money-making from the perspective of someone writing in the 19th Century, and how it is not so different from modern day attitudes and behaviour.
Overall, whilst it is by no means an easy book to read, I would definitely recommend persevering with Le Ventre de Paris , even if for nothing more than to see the difference between the effects of capitalism on people and their personal relationships in the 19th Century fiction and in our own experiences in the modern world.