Doctor Pascal Rougon, a medical man at Plassans and a distin-guished student of heredity, had brought up his niece Clotilde (daughter of Aristide Rougon alias Saccard) from childhood. Years afterwards they found that they passionately loved one another... His mother, Felicite Rougon, who feared that his researches on heredity might bring scandal on the family, burned all his papers, and in one hour destroyed the work of a lifetime... A child was born to Clotilde, a child which Pascal intensely desired, in the hope that through it might come the regeneration and rejuvenation of his race...
The story in the book is both simple and sad. (J. G. Patterson) ---
Pascal's works on the members of his family is, in small, what I have attempted to do on humanity, to show all so that all may be cured. It is not a book which, like La Debacle, will stir the passions of the mob. It is a scientific work, the logical deduction and conclusion of all my preceding novels, and at the same time it is my speech in defence of all that I have done before the court of public opinion. (Emile Zola)