A novel which highlights the unpleasant baser instincts of the human being, may not have been the most auspicious choice for the Grannus Musings members to read during traditionally the most depressing month of the year. However the novel- The Beast Within by Emile Zola– engendered lively discussion within the group and left those who had failed to finish the book with a degree of uncertainty about their decision. There was general agreement about the author’s fine style and the quality of his descriptive writing.
The finale of the book leaves almost all the main characters dead through various acts of violence. Zola’s final chapter depicts a fight between a steam train engine driver and his stoker ending as they fall below the train wheels and leave it packed with French soldiers speeding to certain death. He drew this scene as an allegory to a class ridden French society, which he viewed as corrupt to the core, hurtling to destruction. His 19th century message may still be considered to resonate today.