A penetrating, if occasionally repetitive, life-study of the great French naturalist, by a meticulous and dogged researcher. This is Schom's first book, and he spent 11 years on it--two facts entirely in his favor, as this well-documented, serious, analytical biography of Zola manages to capture thoroughly both the public and private man. Remembered now for his accurate, often brutal depiction of working-class misery in such novels as Germinal, Zola was an extremely successful--if much hated--journalist whose active defense of Alfred Dreyfus was largely responsible for exposing the anti-Semitic conspiracy in the French military that so embarrassed France at the end of the last century. Recounting Zola's active life from his first bold entrance into the Paris literary world as a starving young book-reviewer (he reviewed three to five books a day in one ten-month period in his early 20s) through his rapid rise to fame and fortune as an author, his childless marriage, his not-so-secret love affair, the births of his illegitimate children, his unhappy exile in England during the Dreyfus period, and the mystery surrounding his disquieting death, Schom's portrait is continuously absorbing. Schom arranges his material into topical chapters that follow only a roughly chronological order, a plan that can confuse, since the author must make numerous leaps in time and often repeat himself to let the reader catch up; but the originality and thoroughness of the research, and the overall intensity of the work, more than make up for the few stylistic lapses.