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As New Year’s resolutions go, vowing to read all twenty volumes in Emile Zola’s Rougon-Macquart cycle isn’t the hardest one I’ve ever undertaken; that would be 2016’s “wash the dishes as I go and hit the hay with a clean kitchen” resolution—and of course, everyone knows that’s impossible. I made it to like January 11; it was foolish to even try it.

But the Zola resolution is definitely my longest ongoing resolution; I made it four years ago and I’m at the exact halfway-point, having finished ten of the novels. It’s not as heavy as it sounds; they move along fleetly, and if you’re willing to pretend that you know what the hell went on with the short-lived French Second Republic, they whiz by. Hot tip: you’d do well to just say “uh-oh” and start skimming anytime someone starts rabble-rousing and polishing a musket.

But! I am not going to tell you that you should try and do this. Not even I have the nerve to boss you into reading twenty novels translated from the French. No, not when there’s a spectacular BBC Radio 4 audio series called Blood, Sex and Money

Each episode is a lively dramatization of one of the twenty novels in the cycle (the separate book titles have been stripped off and the books have been grouped thematically by the three words in the series title—if you’ve read them, the order is off, but it makes sense this way too; they all intertwine, but you do not need to know the plot of one to dive into another). There’s an episode guide here.

They’re impeccably produced like old-time radio (including sound effects), and almost embarrassingly well cast: Anna Maxwell-Martin, Samuel West . . . even Glenda Jackson shows up to basically just Glenda Jackson all over the place, and almost every voice (in a cast of tens!) provokes a “Hey, I know that voice!” response.

It’s almost twenty-four hours long, but each episode flies by and let’s face it: you spent half that amount of time watching that barbecued ribs show I went on about, so you can do this too. Dive in and get back to me in four years. Vive la France!


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About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.


  • I’m waiting for the puppet show version of “The Belly of Paris” but maybe after that . . .

  • This sounds intriguing. I might be tempted to join you with the books too.

  • But can I knit and listen too?

  • If you don’t have an Audible subscription you can listen via the free “BBC Sounds” app (formerly “BBC iPlayer Radio”). Just put “Blood, Sex and Money” into the search bar and the list of episodes will come up. (Scroll down the list to start – the most recent episode is at the top).

  • I have the BBC Radio 4 app, but the episodes are not available at this time’. Waaaa

    • I was able to access ok. When I tapped the series name after searching, a list came up. Looks like series 1 and 2 are available. I scrolled to the bottom and started the first episode (says 44 min – I didn’t listen to it all yet). Are you using “BBC Sounds” app?

      • Yes I found it on the BBC Sounds app, thanks for that tip Lynda!

        • And thank YOU DG!

  • All 20 books are available on Kindle for $ 0.99, and that’s 7000 + pages! My kindle is on my phone; wonder how that would affect its working speed. Goodness! But I’m very intrigued. Change the subject: will the Atlas yarn be available anytime soon? besides in the beginner kit?

    • DG, you have bossed me into spending 99 cents to dig in to these novels. You have not steered me wrong in entertainment yet!!

  • Hmmm, it’s fiction, but since my maternal grandfather was a Rougon, think this might be fun!?!?

  • Wow! I share the surname – no relation, sadly. In HS I tried to read him. All that realism style detail drove me nuts. Also maybe it was a bad translation. For DECADES much guilt about not reading him. Not even J’acuse. Perhaps the audio is just my thing. Or maybe now that I’m old and gray (well, somewhat gray during pandemic – until 2 weeks ago ), I should try reading him again. Hah! Who am I kidding? (I now have greatly diminished reading ability). BBC, i’tis. Thanks!

    • The “bad translation” issue is one that matters — I’ve been reading the new ones that Oxford World Classics has been dribbling out over the past few years; they finally got to the 20th one just this year. They feel pretty fresh and lively.

  • Thank you DC Strong for all your wonderful suggestions on your blog for MDK. I have been listening to Blood, Sex & Money for the last few days and can not stop! Not only is the narrator wonderful but the stories!!!!!! I would probably never had even looked at this audio book unless you had recommended it. All your recommendations for “Knit to This” are fabulous. Your articles are only one of the reasons i LOVE MDK. Thanks again.

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