'I really don't understand how people can blame a priest so much, when he strays from the path.' Serge Mouret, is an obsessively devout priest, aspiring to perfect purity and sanctity. A serious illness leaves him with amnesia, and no longer knowing he is a priest, he falls in love with his nurse Albine. Together they roam an Eden-like garden called the 'Paradou', seeking a forbidden tree, beneath whose boughs they make love. Anguish follows, as the abbe regains his memory and returns to the church. In this, the fifth novel in the Rougon-Macquart series, Zola concentrates on the conflict between church and nature; celibacy and sexuality. The Sin of Abbe Mouret is Zola's version of the Fall of Man and has many biblical parallels. The novel stands out among the author's work for its lyricism and the extravagant beauty of the descriptions. The edition includes a wide-ranging introduction and useful historical notes.
Valerie Minogue has taught at the universities of Cardiff, Queen Mary, London, and Swansea. She is co-founder of Romance Studies and has been President of the Emile Zola Society, London, since 2005. She was made an Officier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Academiques in 2012.