'Everything revolved around their love. They were constantly bathed in a passion that they carried with them, around them, as though it were the only air they could breathe.'
Helene Grandjean, an attractive young widow, lives a secluded life in Paris with her only child, Jeanne. Jeanne is a delicate and nervous girl who jealously guards her mother's affections. When Jeanne falls ill, she is attended by Dr Deberle, whose growing admiration for Helene gradually turns into mutual passion. Deberle's wife Juliette, meanwhile, flirts with a shallow admirer, and Helene, intent on preventing her adultery, precipitates a crisis whose
consequences are far-reaching. Jeanne realizes she has a rival for Helene's devotion in the doctor, and begins to exercise a tyrannous hold over her mother.
The eighth novel in Zola's celebrated Rougon-Macquart series, A Love Story is an intense psychological and nuanced portrayal of love's different guises. Zola's study extends most notably to the city of Paris itself, whose shifting moods reflect Helene's emotional turmoil in passages of extraordinary lyrical description.
Helen Constantine was Head of Modern Languages at Bartholomew School near Oxford before retiring from teaching in 2000. She is now a full-time translator and editor. From 2003-2012 she was co-editor of the international magazine Modern Poetry in Translation. She has published four volumes of translated stories, Paris Tales, Paris Metro Tales, French Tales, and Paris Steet Tales. Her translations include The Conquest of Plassans by Zola, and Flaubert's A Sentimental Education for Oxford World's Classics. Brian Nelson is Emeritus Professor (French Studies and Translation Studies) at Monash University, Melbourne, and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He has been editor of the Australian Journal of French Studies since 2002. His publications include The Cambridge Companion to Zola (CUP, 20017), Zola and the Bourgeoisie (Palgrave Macmillan, 1983), and translations of Earth, The Fortune of the Rougons, The Belly of Paris, The Kill, Pot Luck, and The Ladies' Paradise for Oxford World's Classics. He was awarded the New South Wales Premier's Prize for Translation in 2015. His most recent critical work is The Cambridge Introduction to French Literature (CUP, 2015).