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Blood, Sex and Money
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Glenda Jackson stars in this award-winning BBC Radio series, inspired by literature's greatest ever whistle-blower, Émile Zola, and his epic saga of the Rougon-Macquart family.
First published between 1870 and 1893, Émile Zola’s 20-book cycle chronicling four generations of the Rougon-Macquarts was a shocking exposé of the decadence, degradation and moral decay of 19th-century France. It included some of his greatest novels, among them his masterpiece, Germinal.
These innovative, ambitious dramas, first broadcast on Radio 4 over 24 hours in 2015-16, are a radical reimagining of Zola’s classic series, introducing us to 104-year-old matriarch Dide, imprisoned in an asylum in southern France. Trapped but omniscient, she broods over her ‘family of wolves’. As a young woman, she gave birth to two dynasties that exemplified French society. One legitimate - rich, powerful, obsessive and corrupt. The other illegitimate - poor, vulnerable, weak and depraved.
In these three seasons, themed around blood, sex and money, we come to know the members of her extended family intimately - the good, the bad and the misguided. As we follow their highs and lows, we are taken deep into the heart of France’s ‘Second Empire’ and drawn into the tragic, farcical reign of Napoleon III as it marches forward towards a modern, industrialised society.
This groundbreaking series won Best Drama at the BBC Radio and Music Awards 2016 and Best Adaptation at the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2017 and boasts a star cast including Robert Lindsay, Julie Hesmondhalgh, Holliday Grainger, Samuel West, Anna Maxwell Martin, Paul McGann, Georgina Campbell, Jack Lowden and Alison Steadman.
Also included is a 30-minute bonus programme, The Life and Work of Émile Zola, in which Glenda Jackson travels to Paris to discover how Zola’s experience and the physical and cultural landscape in which he lived influenced his great novels.
"Unmissable." (Daily Telegraph)
What members say
I first came across this production on Radio4 several ago but only managed to catch about half of it.
I've have been trying to get hold of the complete series ever since and even contacted the BBC and the producer to no avail, so I'm delighted it is all finally available here.
Zola is one of the greatest writers that ever lived and this story is a masterpiece.
He was writing at about the time of Hardy and Dickens and if you have never dipped into Zola, he's in that quality of writing but this is industrial strength stuff: much darker, a much stronger social conscience than either of them.
And if you are the sort of person that still has images in your head from when you read Far From the Madding Crowd or Great Expectations, then I am sure you will love this.
The dramatisation is also a masterpiece. They haven't tried to use fake French accents the whole thing is in gritty English accents and that was a really good decision.
They have invested a lot of money and love in this and it really shows. The casting is excellent- just a look at the names tells you all- and they have given it enough time to tell the story properly and correctly.
It's a rare production, possibly unique, and of the very highest quality.
I can say no more.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful