Nana, the protagonist is a woman starting from absolute poverty managed to climb the social ladder to the highest echelons.
In Zola's Paris, an ingenue arrives at a tony bordello: she's Nana, guileless, but quickly learning to use her erotic innocence to get what she wants. She's an actress for a soft-core filmmaker and soon is the most popular courtesan in Paris, parlaying this into a house, bought for her by a wealthy banker. She tosses him and takes up with her neighbor, a count of impeccable rectitude, and with the count's impressionable son. The count is soon fetching sticks like a dog and mortgaging his lands to satisfy her whims. She bankrupts him, arranges the debauching of his wife, and seduces his son on his wedding day. What else can she accomplish before she leaves Paris airborne?
The Salzlipp twins grow up without their father. The boy and the girl are convinced he is an important superhero secret agent. But when he eventually comes home, it turns out that he is but a puny, insignificant meteorologist who had been innocently languishing in jail. The children refuse to accept that this is their father. And sexy Mrs. Salzlipp has fallen in love with another man. But Salzlipp fights back. He discovers that he can influence and indeed manipulate the weather. He can turn summertime into deep frost. Magic! As with Dostoyevski's Idiot there's more to Salzlipp than meets the eye. Maybe he can use his gift to win back his family? An imaginative tale about love and respect in a romantic seaside setting.
Nana opens in 1867, the year of the World Fair, when Paris, thronged by a cosmopolitan elite, was a perfect target for Zola's scathing denunciation of hypocrisy and fin-de-siècle moral corruption. In this new translation, the fate of Nana–the Helen of Troy of the second Empire, and daughter of the laundress in L'Assommoir–is now rendered in racy, stylish English.