Henceforth I’m going to tag as Underrated Book Pleasures those books that, despite their amazingness, have serious low ratings on GR.
Let’s start with a little known Classic of 19th Century French Literature by the Father of Naturalism, Emile Zola. I’m pretty sure you know who I’m talking about, so no introductions are needed…
I’m slowly reading my way through his works, obviously starting from The Complete Early Novels, which I’m proud to say I already finished and I found it a pleasant experience.
While I’ll concentrate on the very first of Zola’s novels – which he dubbed “sperimental”, and we all know that authors define as such works they thought unsatisfying, or when they did not know what they were actually doing – I want it known that the one I liked the most was Therese Raquin, which I also highly recommend, closely followed by Madeleine Ferat.
While Claude’s Confession can hardly be considered a masterpiece, Zola’s mind has brought forth a bunch of fantastic novels that can be defined as such without the shadow of a doubt, and that wouldn’t have happened had he not tried his hand with this one first.
Old Books by Dead Guys describes this first attempt at writing as “an ambitious but depressing debut”…
And that’s exactly what it is.
More so if you consider that it holds autobiografic characteristics. The preface, in fact, states that the character of Claude represents Zola. That poor man!
Claude is a poor guy, figuratively and factually speaking. He has no money, or very little at that, and he eventually falls in love with a woman who is described as not particularly beautiful – as it is, she’s prematurely old and ugly; the way she was described I sometimes had the impression of reading about Gollum–— okay, that’s kind of an exaggeration…
But who cares about that?
Physical beauty is temporary!
Yes, but the fact is, Laurence seems incapable of love. She does not reciprocate Claude’s feelings and she does not appreciate his “suffocating” attentions. Though he takes her on and out of an even deeper misery. Ungrateful! And that’s just the most depressing thing. You offer your heart, and the one you want to give it to just cannot bother to care!
Delivered in an harshly realistic manner and offering a profound insight in human psyche, Claude’s Confession can be percieved as a warning to the sometimes intoxicating effects love can have for youths.
While not be the highest manifestation of Zola’s mind and certainly not my favourite among his early works, this path-opener to his subsequent wonderful Les Rougon-Macquart novels.