55 Followers
28 Following
readerreader

Reader! Reader!

Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

Currently reading

Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
Progress: 220/656 pages

The Belly of Paris

The Belly of Paris - Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, Émile Zola

A story of a planned revolution, the setting of this novel holds the key to its magnificence. The story takes part in the newly covered mid-19th century markets of Les Halles, in Paris—the covered stalls, the cellars under the markets, the nearby shops. Zola does an amazing job describing the abundance of food—from the market gardeners arriving well before dawn every morning, to the wholesalers and shopkeepers who purchase from them, to those who purchase from the wholesalers to take items in carts to the various neighborhoods. You can imagine the food coming into the city and then being distributed throughout the city—and it happened every day. There is the fish market, the bird market, the fruit market, the cheese and butter market, the shops (pork, wine, and more), and even flower stalls. Piles and piles of food to feed Paris. And within this community there is still hunger, and there is hatred of the current regime. Why so much hate amid so much plenty is not exactly explained, though many of the characters (even among the hungry) cannot understand this themselves. How much revolution is actually wanted vs how much men want to feel important and powerful may be the real key to the emerging plot.

 

Zola's descriptions are amazing. It's not the story that makes this book so fascinating. It's the descriptions of a place that no longer exists. Yes there is a plot—with a fair number of characters, each with a slightly different history. They argue, the struggle, they hope, they work hard, and they move forward. But his descriptions of the plenty are truly worth a read.