- Set in the 1860s in a mining community in northern France
- 13th novel in Zola’s 20-volume Rougon-Macquart series
- Timeless cry of protest against oppression and the misery of the poor who never inherit the Earth
- Zola researched this novel by making a trip down the working mine at Denain in Valenciennes
- Zola wrote Germinal in 10 frenzied months from April 1884 to January 1885
Why I choose Germinal as my favorite classic:
This book was suggested to me by my sister. I put off reading it for years because the cover and subject matter just did not excite me enough to read the book. I was so wrong.
Zola was inspired to write this book by the miners’ strikes of 1869 (in La Ricamarie and Aubin) and 1884 (in Aubin).
I rarely see this book on Classic Book Lists and want to recommend it to all who love great literature.
The descriptions of the mines of northern France and the the lives of the workers still haunt me. Underground explosions trapping people and horses and the struggle to get to the top alive is a formidable read. Gasping for every breath, I feel I am pacing along with family at the mining camp waiting…waiting…for word of the survivors. Zola’s words transport me to a place of tension, anguish, violence and sometimes death.
Germinal is a realistic novel record of the historical exploitation of miners and a progress report on the working-class struggle against the economic effects of capitalism in 19th-century France.