Thérése Raquin is a clinically observed, sinister tale of adultery
and murder among the lower orders in nineteenth-century Paris.
Zola's dispassionate dissection of the motivations of his
characters, mere `human beasts' who kill in order to satisfy their
lust, is much more than an atmospheric Second Empire period-piece.
Many readers were scandalized by an approach to character-drawing
which seemed to undermine not only the moral values of a deeply
conservative society, but also the whole code of psychological
description on which the realist novel was based. Together with the
important `Preface to the Second Edition' in which Zola defended
himself against charges of immorality, Thér