The Earth (La Terre) by Emile Zola
This was very easy to read and I recommend it. I do enjoy Zola, and will read anything by him. I’ll try to read all the Rougon-Macquart series.
The book has some very entertaining descriptions such as the role of priests in the villag and La Grande’s twisted plans to interfere with her family.
The story does not turn out well for the characters (this is Zola). However, the tragedy eg to Francoise did not seem as pointless and self-destructive as other books (eg to Gervaise in L’Assommoir). Maybe I consider a family feud as less pointless than alcohol.
The Canon character seemed related to the revolutionary in Germinal.
Kit had a good laugh over some of the earthy language (so did I).
I would rank this high, but below L’Assomoir.
I did feel motivated enough to buy L’Assommoir and La Terre in french, I think I’ll struggle to read entirely in native language, but I’m curious to see the translations (and to learn some swear words!). Also ABE fr is just as cheap as uk.
Spies and Commisars by Robert Service
I’ve read a lot by Professor Service, but this particular book didn’t quite grab me as much as the others. I’m fascinated by fellow travellers etc… but the spies were more going in the other direction (from the west to Russia).
I’ve read about spies into Soviet Russia in the context eg of MI6 history, and this is interesting but I wasn’t looking for it here.
Eg there was quite a lot about Sidney Reilly, but I wasn’t looking for this. However, Reilly brings back memories of Margaret, my friend from the Netherlands. She used to call me Reilly after the TV show. I always took this as a compliment, Sam Neil (the actor who played Reilly) is not bad looking, and Maggie was very cool. She pronounced her name with a heart-wrenchingly gutteral ‘g’ and was generally a great person.
Anyway, Spies and Commisars had some good ideas/stats, eg NY being a hot bed of radicalism at the time of the revolution. Makes sense in the context of the Goldman etc… deportations. But maybe I was looking for something else, eg a history of the Comintern. The stories about Ivy Litvinov were interesting though.
Obviously, Professor Service is a serious authority on the subject of Soviet Russia, and his biographies of Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky and other books are immensely worth reading. He is an authoritative professor at Oxford, unlike some of the other professors who are complete and utter scumbags.