'She was the golden beast, an unconscious force, the very scent of her could bring the world to ruin.'
Nana, daughter of a drunk and a laundress, is the Helen of Troy of Paris. A sexually magnetic high-class prostitute and actress, she becomes a celebrity, rapidly conquering society, ruining all men who fall under her spell -- especially Count Muffat, Chamberlain to the Empress. Nana herself meets a terrible fate, consumed by her own dissipation and extravagance, just as the disastrous war with Prussia is declared.
Nana is the ninth instalment in the twenty volume Rougon-Macquart series. The novel opens in 1867, the year of the World Fair, when Paris, thronged by a cosmopolitan elite, was la Ville Lumiere
, the glittering setting-and object-of Zola's scathing denunciation of society's hypocrisy and moral corruption. Nana comes to symbolize the Second Empire regime itself in all its excesses; but in the final chapters, the narrator seems to suggest that the coming disaster is not so much a result of the corruption of the Empire, as of rampant female sexuality.