Short summary - The Joy of Living - La joie de vivre - Émile Zola

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Joy of Living - La joie de vivre
Émile Zola

Micro-retelling: The main character, who meets in her life only ingratitude, hatred, greed and deceit, responds to those around her with love, dedication, and mercy. She is endowed with a unique quality - to enjoy life as it is.

The action takes place in the 60s of the XIX century in the small fishing village of Bonneville, near Caen. Ten-year-old Polina Kenu, whose parents have died, is being raised by Mr. and Mrs. Chanteau. They take care of her and consider the girl the main contender for the inheritance. They have the best intentions.

Paulina quickly gets used to such a relationship. She helps them with the housework and makes friends with their son Lazarus, who soon leaves for Paris to study medicine. But his plans are slightly different. Lazarus wants to trade seaweed. Polina invests it. The business brings a loss, as a result of which they lose part of their income. Ms. Shanteo intends to prepare the wedding of the young people; they announce their engagement.

Every summer, Louise Tibordier, a girl with a huge dowry, comes to visit them. Soon Louise and Lazarus begin to flirt with each other. At the instigation of the maid Veronica, Paulina catches both of them and demands that Louise leave the house. In order not to lose Polina and along with her a source of money, Ms. Shanteo agrees with this. When she is overcome by heart disease, Paulina takes care of her. But soon she dies, and Polina takes over the household.

Polina learns that the relationship between Lazarus and Louise continues. She sets aside her feelings and abandons Lazarus, who is about to marry Louise. Through his father-in-law, Lazarus gets a lucrative position in Paris. Everything is monotonous in Polina's house. When Lazarus arrives again, a rapprochement occurs between them. Lazarus kisses her, but, trying to unbutton Polina's dresses, meets her resistance. The girl runs away.

Louise also arrives in Bonneville. She has a difficult pregnancy. With great difficulty, she gives birth to a boy. The doctor takes him for the deceased, but Polina is taking care of the child. Lazarus and Louise remain in Bonnville. They are empty arguments that Polina has to listen to every day. She has almost used up her fortune. But, unlike others, she radiates strength and health.