The Rougon Macquart Novels
by Emile Zola




La Conquête de Plassans

First Published in 1874

English Translations:

The Conquest of Plassans (1900)
Published by Chatto and Windus with Intro by EA Vizetelly

A Priest in the House (1957)
Published by Elek Books Ltd and translated by Brian Rhys

My Translation:

coverpic_smllMy translation is the 1957 Elek books version by Brian Rhys. I obtained a very good copy from Margaret Riccetti Rare Books in Sheffield, UK via Abebooks.

Film Versions:



The book is set almost entirely in the fictional town of Plassans which as discussed elsewhere is based on Aix en Provence. There are occassional forays to villages outside of the town most noticeably Les Tulettes in which is situated a lunatic asylum.
Within Plassans the majority of the action takes place in the Mouret's house and the Church of Saint Saturnin.


The book is the story of the priest Abbé Faujas and his rise to power in the town of Plassans, having been sent secretly by the emperor's officials in Paris to bring back into line the voters there who had at the previous election voted in a legitimist candidate.
It is also the story of the Mouret's family and their descent into madness and in Mme Mouret's case madness via religious fervour.
The ending is shocking and I will not reveal it here.
The action in the book takes place over 5 years from 1856 to 1861.


My View:

The book is in many ways predictable as to its conclusion. However, there is always an element of doubt as to the character and motivation of Abbé Faujas which keeps the suspense going.

The ancillary character portrayals are great. I particularly liked the Trouches who are almost as cartoon-like as Dickens comic characters in places.
As ever, Zola gives you plenty to dislike in the characters. The descent into madness seemed a bit rapid for me but this is a quibble. Overall, I enjoyed reading this and definitely deserves a higher profile amongst his English speaking audience.



Character List

Members of the Rougon Macquart Family

Antoine Macquart
Désirée Mouret
Françoise Mouret
Marthe Mouret (née Rougon)
Octave Mouret
Serge Mouret
Adélaide Rougon (aka Aunt Didé)
Félicité Rougon
Pierre Rougon


The Churchmen

Abbé Bourrette
Abbé Chardan
M. Compan
Abbé Ovid Faujas
Abbé Fenil
M. Lieutard
Bishop Rousselot
Abbé Surin
Abbé Vial

The Government House Circle

M. de Condamin
Mme. Octave de Condamin
M. Delangre
Mme. Delangre
M. Paloque
Mme Paloque
M. Péqueur des Saulaies
Dr. Porquier


The Rastoil Circle

M. de Bourde
Marquis de Lagrifoul
M. Maffre
Guillaume Porquier
Angeline Rastoil
Aurélie Rastoil
M. Rastoil
Mme. Rastoil


Other Characters

Lucien Delangre
Mme. Faujas
Alphonse Maffre
Ambroise Maffre
Séverin Rastoil
Honoré Trouche
Olympe Trouche