This is the book I should have started my adventures with Zola. It's just perfect! The language, the oh-so-slight cynicism, the neutral description of not-so-neutral circumstances...
I cannot say enough about this book, and I don't intend to. The superficiality of the nouveau-riches is a well-documented subject, but I have to give the laurels to Zola. Especially when I read that he himself was penniless when writing this novel, and to get the information he went around the stately houses to witness the pointlessness of what he saw...
In modern terms, this would have been a soap-opera, but with a certain niveau... We are introduced to the family of Eugene Rougon's younger brother, Aristide - and here's the first twist already: in order not to embarrass Eugene's political ambitions, Aristide is to change his family name to Saccard. I just can't believe my eyes when I read this. Our society then is transparent in comparison to this! (This for some reason brings back to mind the story about Coco Chanel, who "invented" her origins when she became famous...).
Throughout The Kill, what captures my attention is the language used. It is French of a by-gone era, it's true, but it describes the emptiness, the loneliness, the hypocrisy, the desperation so beautifully it sent shivers down my spine - and of course, it contributes to the ruthlessness that is witnessed in the members of good society.
Of the several scenes in the novel, one stood out for me: While his first wife is lying in her deathbed, Aristide is planning together with his sister his marriage to wealthy young Renée, and there is an amazing dialogue that almost brought me to my feet screaming - not to be missed!
The book then goes on with delightful scenes of great tension among the family members, with primary objective the accumulation of wealth, of tricking everyone around them and, of course, having no moral conscience. Oh, and an affair between stepmom Renée and son Maxime, who are few years apart. The end will see the "sinners" punished for their sins, but it will not be a joyous occasion and the aftertaste will indeed be bitter.
Yes, this is a book that appeals to everyone with eyes open to the "wonders" of this world, who is ready for a trip down the history of "good society" and all its grand schemes.