Germinal Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Germinal

It's a very cold, early spring morning in about 1867 when 21-year-old Etienne, a mechanic who lost his job in the south for slugging a foreman, chances into a coal mining job in the north of France. He soon learns the ways of the poor mining families of Montsou, especially the children of Maheu, with whom he lives for a while, and the 15-year-old daughter Catharine, who becomes the subject of a bristling romantic rivalry between Etienne and another young miner, Chaval.
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Able to read and possessed of a little education, Etienne naturally wants to help the miners better their situation, and he is swayed by a traveling union organizer as well as retired miners who run the local shops. But the more he rises in the organization, the more he is torn between his sympathy for his fellow workers and a desire to get beyond their dirty, dangerous life.

Zola's 1885 novel is the 13th in a great series of 20 books that covered the multiple lives of several French families over many decades, and this was one of the best. It details the working conditions in a mile-deep coal mine, the grinding poverty of the workers, the various levels of bourgeois managers and owners above them. Germinal was surprisingly frank about the sexual mores of the rural people of the time, as well.
The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus

Zola's Germinal is a book about a mining village in France during the industrial revolution. It tells of the opression and difficulties the miners face that lead them to gather together and strike against the company.
The review of this Book prepared by a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

A story about political revolution--or attempts at it--in France in the 19th century. From the point of view of an outsider who joins a mining town full of suffering people.
The review of this Book prepared by sarrah

Chapter Analysis of Germinal

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   depressed Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Political/social activism    -   Yes Plotlet:    -   union leaders fighting for labor rights Life of a profession:    -   miner Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Job/Profession/Status story    -   Yes

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   French


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   3 () Europe    -   Yes European country:    -   France Small town?    -   Yes

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only    -   descript of kissing    -   impregnation/reproduction Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Germinal

Emile Zola Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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