Although Abbe Mouret’s Transgression, the fifth in the Les Rougon-Macquart series, should not be undertaken unless you’ve read classics like The Earth, Nana, and The Ladies’ Paradise, it has some merit.
When Serge Mouret, a priest, has a nervous breakdown, his uncle, Dr. Pascal Rougon, leaves him at Paradou, a derelict mansion in the country, where he is nursed by Albine, niece of the misanthropic caretaker. The two have an innocent, idyllic love affair, because Serge has forgotten who he is. He has no idea he was a priest. They wander around eating fruit and making love all day.
Influenced by Rousseau, Zola did not pen the vivid naturalistic exposé we expect from his other books. It’s very much a tale of the Paradise of Adam and Eve. The style is lyrical and baroque, and it’s a meandering dream of a book.
Commentary courtesy of Kat at Mirabile Dictu