Émile Zola’s The Dram-Shop is irresistible. Like the best of Dickens, it tells the story of an underclass with compassion and leaves its readers emotionally bereft.
Considered one of Zola's masterpieces, The Dram-Shop—a study of alcoholism and poverty in the working-class districts of Paris—was a huge commercial success and helped establish Zola's fame and reputation throughout France and the world.
Gervaise Macquart, the central character, begins the novel with hope, and slowly rises to make a success of her humble life, only to stumble downward on a path that can have no other progression than poverty and disgrace.
Zola portrays some universal truths: that the underclass has the same hopes and dreams for themselves and their children as anyone else, but their precarious finances make them vulnerable to life events that can plunge them into disaster from which there is no return.
Its publication sparked a fiery controversy that made it an overnight bestseller, and it has long since reigned as a classic of French literature.
ÉMILE ZOLA (1840 –1902) was a French writer, a major figure of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of the modern novel. Zola was nominated for both the first and second Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901 and 1902.