There is a description of working down the coal mines in 19th century northern France in “Germinal” by Emile Zola that painted a claustrophobic, vivid picture in my mind as I read this book. “Germinal” is set in the late 1800s in Northern France and describes the appalling conditions that the working class found itself in under Napoleon III.
It is about the struggle for life, the struggle of the working class for bread and better conditions, and the shocking inequality in French society that eventually bubbled up into revolution.
Why I would recommend this book, however, is because it is beautifully written, easy to read and accessible, and gives a view of life from the perspective of Emile Zola, one of the finest writers in any language.
It forms part of a series of books written by Zola: the Rougon-Macquart series, which he subtitled: “A Natural and Social History of a Family under the Second Empire”.
This was the first Zola book I ever read and the description of working down the coal mines reminded me again of how lucky I am to be making a living as a solicitor and working in safe, dry conditions.
You can pick up a copy on Amazon here.