The Joy of Life is the 12 of 20 novels in Emile Zola's grand Rougon Macquart Cycle. The pivotal character is Pauline Quenu, daughter of Lisa Macquart. It is set in coastal Normandy. Pauline's mother has just died so at age ten she goes to live with her aunt and uncle. Pauline is well off financially through inheritance. There is no joy of life in The Joy of Life, one miserable thing after another happens. Pauline is still living at her uncle's house thirty years later when the novel ends. Zola appears to see virginal girls as somehow pure and uncorrupted. It appears Pauline is still a virgin at forty, still pure and kind when everyone else is anything but. There is a lot of death in the story and the central male character, Pauline's cousin, and love interest is obsessed with a morbid fear of death.
This is an interesting novel and might be readable as a standalone work. The characters are well but not flawlessly developed. For sure Zola lets us see the struggles to survive in rural Normandy. We are made to feel the power of the sea.
I am really enjoying reading the cycle.
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