There are loads of Zola novels jostling for a place on this list, particularly L’Assommoir and Au Bonheur des Dames, but Nana will always be close to my heart. It’s the first Zola I ever read, in my teens, in translation, and it’s the first one I read in French years later. It’s a great example of Zola at his ferocious best, and I’m always going to be a sucker for any book about prostitutes and backstage life. It’s also got one of the strongest story arcs of all time, taking Nana from the gutter to theatrical and ‘professional’ stardom and then all the way down to her ghastly death. Can I just say as an aside – and I don’t know if anyone will read this far – that the French novelists seem to me to be the only Europeans to rival the British. I’ve long wondered if I’m missing out on a fantastic body of novels from, say, Germany, but I’ve yet to find them.