Blood, Sex and Money

A BBC Radio 4 Serialisation of Zola's Epic Saga
Length: 23 hrs and 18 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Glenda Jackson stars in this award-winning BBC Radio series, inspired by literature's greatest ever whistleblower, 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, is 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.

Written by Émile Zola

Dramatised by Dan Rebellato, Oliver Emanuel, Martin Jameson and Lavinia Murray

Produced and directed by Pauline Harris, Polly Thomas, Kirsty Williams, Nadia Molinari and Gary Brown

Executive Producer: Melanie Harris

Series Producer: Susan Roberts

Sound designer: Eloise Whitmore

©2019 BBC Worldwide Ltd (P)2019 BBC Worldwide Ltd

Critic Reviews

"Unmissable." (Daily Telegraph)

What listeners say about Blood, Sex and Money

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Addictive, Edifying Fun - Truly Outstanding

I cannot recommend this series highly enough. The dramatizations are tautly written, convincingly performed, and just spellbinding, really. It dramatizes the twenty novels that constitute Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart series, his masterwork, and these performances got me so interested that, in the month since listening, I've already read three of the original novels and plan to read more. To assist those interested and those who are in the midst of listening, here is my overview of which chapters present which of Zola's novels. Part 1: Blood Ch. 1 / Ep. 1: Animals / based on Zola's The Fortune of the Rougons Ch. 2 / Ep. 2: Fire / based on Zola's The Conquest of Plassans Ch. 3 / Ep. 3: Food / based on Zola's The Belly of Paris Ch. 4 / Ep. 4: Politics / based on Zola's His Excellency Eugène Rougon part 1 Ch. 5 / Ep. 5: Drink / based on Zola's L'Assommoir Ch. 6 / Ep. 6: Art / based on Zola's The Masterpiece part 1 Ch. 7 / Ep. 7: Masterpiece / based on Zola's The Masterpiece part 2 Ch. 8 / Ep. 8: Fury / based on Zola's La Bête humaine part 1 Ch. 9 / Ep. 9: Trains / based on Zola's La Bête humaine part 2 Part 2: Sex Ch. 10 / Ep. 1 Performance / based on Zola's Nana part 1 Ch. 11 / Ep. 2 Power / based on Zola's His Excellency Eugène Rougon part 2 Ch. 12 / Ep. 3 Family / based on Zola's The Kill Ch. 13 / Ep. 4 Lovesick / based on Zola's The Dream Ch. 14 / Ep. 5 Innocence / based on Zola's The Sin of Father Mouret Ch. 15 / Ep. 6 Jealousy / based on Zola's A Love Episode Ch. 16 / Ep. 7 Affairs / based on Zola's Pot-Bouille Ch. 17 / Ep. 8 Lust / based on Zola's The Ladies Paradise Ch. 18 / Ep. 9 Flesh / based on Zola's Nana part 2 Part 3: Money Ch. 19 / Ep. 1 Crash / based on Zola's Money Ch. 20 / Ep. 2 Massacre / based on Zola's Germinal part 1 Ch. 21 / Ep. 3 Trapped / based on Zola's Germinal part 2 Ch. 22 / Ep. 4 Swindle / based on Zola's The Bright Side of Life Ch. 23 / Ep. 5 Inheritance / based on Zola's The Earth part 1 Ch. 24 / Ep. 6 Reap / based on Zola's The Earth part 2 Ch. 25 / Ep. 7 Fate / based on Zola's La Débâcle part 1 Ch. 26 / Ep. 8 Apocalypse / based on Zola's La Débâcle part 2 Ch. 27 / Ep. 9 Ghosts / based on Zola's Doctor Pascal Unfortunately, it does not actually include the "30-minute bonus programme, The Life and Work of Émile Zola," though the product description would lead you to believe otherwise.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Rug
  • 08-22-19

A masterpiece

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.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Alice
  • 04-03-20

Love this

Fantastic audio performance! Perfect for the lockdown!!! An excellent adaption of the classic books that I love!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Archieblackcat
  • 09-29-19

Excellent Stellar Cast

Epic Zola brilliantly dramatised and performed with excellent performances including Glenda Jackson as Aunt Dide - grim and funny at times.

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  • Pamela
  • 05-04-20

Glenda Jackson at her finest.

First, let me say that the performances in this are excellent and happily the listener is spared the usual trope of if it was written in French then everyone needs to play it with a cringey fake accent. Glenda Jackson takes the central role that carries all the way through the saga. And she flawlessly captures the part of the matriarch that sees the lives of the future generations. I don’t want to spoil any listening and therefore I’ll leave the description of the stories there. I feel it needs to be mentioned however that there are some dark tales here and is not a cozy listen. Once aware of that and the social commentary of the times that is harsh it is possible to enjoy a masterpiece.