Friday, April 12, 2024

The Miller's Daughter and Captain Burle by Émile Zola #Zoladdiction2024

Starting this year I will try to read more of Zola's short stories, as I have read all but one of the Rougon-Macquart series. For #Zoladdiction2024 I have read two stories, with mixed outcome.


🔷️ This one is set in a small French village of Rocreuse during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870. Pere Merlier, the miller, is the mayor. He owns a picturesque Mill which he loves almost as much as his love for his daughter, Françoise. When the German troops entered their village, the French army picked the Mill as their fortress. It breaks Pere Merlier's heart while his beloved mill received shots after shots. Françoise' fiance, Dominique, is not a French; he came from Belgium. But he shoots the German to protect Françoise, and that's why the German captured him to be executed. I won't tell you the end, but it's quite suspenseful.

🔷️ But what made me fell in love with this story is Zola picturesque description of the Mill and its surrounding. I imagine he really found that beautiful corner, and captured it just as a painter would paint it, Zola painted it using his pen as brush. And he presented that artful and poignant suspenseful story in just 40-ish pages. Just amazing! Writers... that's how you do a short story!

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


🔷️ Compared to the above first story, this one is, unfortunately, rather flat though quite interesting, and of a different vibe. Captain Burle had had a brilliant military career before he resigned to do administration job as a Quartermaster. But one thing never changes, his nickname is "Petticoat Burle" and women is his weakness.

🔷️ Major Laguitte has served under Captain Burle and maintained a friendly terms with the family. He witnessed how the Captain was more and more captivated by the widowed owner of a "cafe". Then one day he found discrepancies in the Captain's bookkeeping. And that would be the downfall of the honor of the family's name as well as the army's. Something must be done, but what?

🔷️ This story talks about respect, honor, dignity, and friendship; expectation as well as disappointment. Madame Burle, who had high expectation of her son to marv on military career, was hugely disappointed, and so she put her efforts into making her grandson Charles - a tender child - to be what his father failed. Poor Charles! I really admired Laguitte's loyalty to the Burles. And Zola really excelled in manipulating emotions in each character. Not a bad story, but not as poignant as I have expected.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐1/2

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