This book offers a variety of approaches to Zola's masterpiece, published amid considerable controversy in 1876-7. L'Assommoir (the tale of a Parisian washerwoman who after a hard life turns to drink and dies in abject poverty) is analysed as a social and political novel, as a representative work of literary naturalism, and in the context of its repercussions in the history of the novel. Professor Baguley investigates its complex and sometimes ambiguous themes, its literary structures and its technical innovativeness. He provides a synthesis of the best research and criticism of the novel together with insights into its interpretation. The biographical and historical context is given, and there is a guide to further reading.