'Neither spoke another word, they were gripped by a shared, unthinking madness as they plunged headlong together into vertiginous rapture.'
Orphaned with a substantial inheritance at the age of ten, Pauline Quenu is taken from Paris to live with her relatives, Monsieur and Madame Chanteau and their son Lazare, in the village of Bonneville on the wild Normandy coast. Her presence enlivens the household and Pauline is the only one who can ease Chanteau's gout-ridden agony. Her love of life contrasts with the insularity and pessimism that infects the family, especially Lazare, for whom she develops a devoted passion. Gradually Madame
Chanteau starts to take advantage of Pauline's generous nature, and jealousy and resentment threaten to blight all their lives. The arrival of a pretty family friend, Louise, brings tensions to a head.
The twelfth novel in the Rougon Macquart series, The Bright Side of Life is remarkable for its depiction of intense emotions and physical and mental suffering. The precarious location of Bonneville and the changing moods of the sea mirror the turbulent relations of the characters, and as the story unfolds its title comes to seem ever more ironic.
Andrew Rothwell is Professor of French and Translation at Swansea University. Before coming to Swansea in 1999, he was Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, in French at the University of Leeds, following temporary posts at Exeter University and the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. His main research interests are in translation tools and technologies, and modern and contemporary French poetry, from Dada to the present day. He has published a number of translations into English of works by Bernard Noel, Bruno Dumont and other French writers, as well as the Oxford World's Classics edition in English of Emile Zola's early novel, Therese Raquin.