Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels written over a twenty-two year period. Germinal is one of those novels, concerning itself with the struggle of the people working in the coalmines of Northern France. Considered one of the best novels in the French language by Andre Gide, the presentation of the bourgeoisie and the workers is always honest and sympathetic and the account of the rise and fall of revolutionary fervor is compulsive reading. The protagonist Etienne is both easy to empathise with as well as deeply flawed. This is certainly no fairy tale and has a really modern feel to it. A classic.