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Julian Meynell's Books

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Zola's Money

Money (Les Rougon-Macquart, #18) - Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, Émile Zola

This book written in the 1880's and set in the 1860's is about bank fraud, stock market bubbles, short selling, financial fraud and the terrible toll taken on ordinary people at the expense of the super wealthy, who are barely punished if at all for their crimes. As such it has no relevance at all to the present day.

This is the fourteenth book by Zola that I have read. It is not well known and the translation that I read was the first one in more than 100 years. It is actually amazingly relevant. What' amazing is that you could adapt this to a movie set in the present day with almost no changes. This is more so than any other of the Rougon-Macquart novels. Its remarkable that prostitution "Nana" has changed more than finance.

As well as its contemporary relevance, its also quite a good novel. I would rate it about the fifth or sixth best of the Zola novels that I have read. It is also quite subtle for Zola. He manages to see the good side of high finance and the central figure of Saccard is more nuanced than one would expect. In general, the characterization is more subtle and there are a variety of shades of grey painted in the morality at the end.

On a side note, it is the most explicit sexually of serious nineteenth century novels that I have read, so that's good stuff.

It is really quite a bit better than a lot of his novels that I have read, and I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys Zola.

A delightful surprise from one of his lesser known works.