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Zola's original French publication, Au Bonheur des Dames ("The Ladies' Delight"), published 1882, is the eleventh novel in his Rougon-Macquart series. This English translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, was published in 1886. It's a glitzy, fast paced Parisian drama depicting life at the world's first department store, revealing its many innovative marketing concepts, fas Zola's original French publication, Au Bonheur des Dames ("The Ladies' Delight"), published 1882, is the eleventh novel in his Rougon-Macquart series. This English translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, was published in 1886. It's a glitzy, fast paced Parisian drama depicting life at the world's first department store, revealing its many innovative marketing concepts, fashion, glamour, lust, greed, courage, deception, human foibles, and the vision and financial risk-taking that led to a world transformation in shopping -- one that set all the little shop keepers on their heads. All this is contrasted by our heroine Denise, a young sales woman who struggles through financial hardship, back-stabbing friendships, and incredible temptations with a quiet courage that helps her rise to the top. As she passes through fire and emerges from it unscathed, we get Zola's masterful depiction of social upheaval and feminine resistance to evil. In 2012 the BBC used the novel as the basis for an eight-part television series set in northern England titled The Paradise. A second season followed in 2013. The novel was also was adapted into a play, The Ladies' Delight, for BBC Radio 4, premiering in September 2010. ~ Solo by Kristinjg, Edited by Michele Fry, Summary by Michele Fry.


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Zola's original French publication, Au Bonheur des Dames ("The Ladies' Delight"), published 1882, is the eleventh novel in his Rougon-Macquart series. This English translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, was published in 1886. It's a glitzy, fast paced Parisian drama depicting life at the world's first department store, revealing its many innovative marketing concepts, fas Zola's original French publication, Au Bonheur des Dames ("The Ladies' Delight"), published 1882, is the eleventh novel in his Rougon-Macquart series. This English translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, was published in 1886. It's a glitzy, fast paced Parisian drama depicting life at the world's first department store, revealing its many innovative marketing concepts, fashion, glamour, lust, greed, courage, deception, human foibles, and the vision and financial risk-taking that led to a world transformation in shopping -- one that set all the little shop keepers on their heads. All this is contrasted by our heroine Denise, a young sales woman who struggles through financial hardship, back-stabbing friendships, and incredible temptations with a quiet courage that helps her rise to the top. As she passes through fire and emerges from it unscathed, we get Zola's masterful depiction of social upheaval and feminine resistance to evil. In 2012 the BBC used the novel as the basis for an eight-part television series set in northern England titled The Paradise. A second season followed in 2013. The novel was also was adapted into a play, The Ladies' Delight, for BBC Radio 4, premiering in September 2010. ~ Solo by Kristinjg, Edited by Michele Fry, Summary by Michele Fry.

30 review for The Ladies' Paradise

  1. 5 out of 5

    Petra-masx

    Two stories, one the coming of the modern world, capitalism and consumerism, and the other, the poor peasant girl marries money. An alternative title could be All About Shopping. It is interesting to see how the shop assistants in the first department store in Paris (the Ladies' Delight was modelled on the Bonmarche, the real first store) were treated as servants. They lived in dormitories, had curfews, were expected to be chaste and could be fired for anything - or nothing - at all. Interesting Two stories, one the coming of the modern world, capitalism and consumerism, and the other, the poor peasant girl marries money. An alternative title could be All About Shopping. It is interesting to see how the shop assistants in the first department store in Paris (the Ladies' Delight was modelled on the Bonmarche, the real first store) were treated as servants. They lived in dormitories, had curfews, were expected to be chaste and could be fired for anything - or nothing - at all. Interesting also to see how these girls, almost the lowest of the low, assumed airs and graces and found people they could bully whom they viewed as being even lower than themselves. Hasn't changed. It hasn't changed either that the people with money who therefore consider themselves to be at the top of the tree, "quality", object tremendously to those who would rise and marry into their ranks, especially if they aren't even pretty! (Megan Markle for instance, pretty as she is, the British press made much of her lowly beginnings and acted all superior over her dysfunctional family). The story of how the working class of Paris suffered with the coming of the Ladies' Delight department store is the same as when Tesco moves in, or WalMart. All the little businesses die, the suppliers of those businesses often craftsmen, are out of work, and the uneducated young girls and strong young men find themselves low-paying work in those leviathans of the retail industry with rarely a chance to rise let alone own their own business or be respected as skilled tradesmen one day. Everyone says they won't shop at Tesco or WalMart, that they will continue to support their local shops but few - ever do. It's just so convenient... This is a good book, a lot more gentle in its depiction of the working classes and their plight than is usual for Zola, although his overarching theme of a great industrial machine grinding people down remains. Lots of well-drawn characters, good people, bad people and very, very naughty ones. It would make a marvellous film, lots of potential of showing both the changing times and coming of consumerism and an age old love story with a twist, a heroine who is definitely not fair of face. Update The BBC made a serial. They spoiled it by making the heroine pretty rather than a very competent and dedicated young woman who grows in confidence at her abilities. That missed Zola's points of not only could an extremely talented person who makes money for their employers rise, but that a man could fall in love with character and personality above all. Independent TV did worse by responding with Mr. Selfridge about the founder of the wonderful London department store, Selfridges. That was merely soap opera. Originally read and written in 2011, but rewritten 7th July 2018

  2. 4 out of 5

    MJ Nicholls

    Life in an 1860s Paris megastore. As capitalism staggers around on its bunioned feet, waiting for the next self-perpetuating excuse for sickening human greed and useless backbreaking timewasting bullshit in pursuit of Capital to relieve its burden, it’s time to question what we want from an economic system here in the West. A completely equal distribution of funds is impossible since people are cash-hoovering greed machines who will stab their mothers to get a bigger pie slice. Communism is unpo Life in an 1860s Paris megastore. As capitalism staggers around on its bunioned feet, waiting for the next self-perpetuating excuse for sickening human greed and useless backbreaking timewasting bullshit in pursuit of Capital to relieve its burden, it’s time to question what we want from an economic system here in the West. A completely equal distribution of funds is impossible since people are cash-hoovering greed machines who will stab their mothers to get a bigger pie slice. Communism is unpopular due to its fascist tendencies. Perhaps we could try kindness, generosity, wealth-sharing and self-sustaining communities? Stop laughing. The Ladies’ Paradise explores the viperous world of ladies’ retail and the nascent capitalist machine. Bitching and hating and desperation and greed and corsages. That’s the fashion world for you. Denise is Zola’s pure-hearted ingénue who, rather implausibly, and clumsily, enchants the evil chauvinist Octave Mouret with her dowdy virginal loveliness. After a long struggle, she becomes the belle of the megamall, and tames the old beast by refusing to surrender her maidenhead. Nowadays, to get that kind of career traction, you have to humiliate yourself on The Apprentice. The novel is festooned with elaborate descriptions of store displays, which go on and on until we get the bleeding point, and the POV is schizo even by Zola’s standards, but the whole work is admirably ruthless. So: death to capitalism! All hail have-a-tenner-on-me-ism! Update: BBC adaptation currently showing on the iplayer

  3. 5 out of 5

    Capsguy

    Holy Mother of God... I do not know where to begin with this. You see this title, and you look up the book: "Oh, a novel about women and shopping, this is going to be a bore..." Even I had my doubts, and I am an avid reader of Zola, he has yet to disappoint me. And yet, I believe that this may be the best work of his that I have yet to read, perhaps Germinal is slipping through, just... It's still so relevant to today in so many ways, the birth of the super stores and the effect they had and still Holy Mother of God... I do not know where to begin with this. You see this title, and you look up the book: "Oh, a novel about women and shopping, this is going to be a bore..." Even I had my doubts, and I am an avid reader of Zola, he has yet to disappoint me. And yet, I believe that this may be the best work of his that I have yet to read, perhaps Germinal is slipping through, just... It's still so relevant to today in so many ways, the birth of the super stores and the effect they had and still do on small business. The ethical problems of big business muscling out the small guys unable to adapt, whether it be from financial limitations or due to stubbornness. Female employees being coerced to act on the whim of their male employers; the manipulation of pretty much every possible stakeholder in business only to drive up profits; marrying for money, this book has everything. Readers of Zola will be aware of how gritty and raw he his; he does not hold back on the disastrous effects and ramifications that a world driven by capital and materiality has on his well built (with a strong emphasis on psychological aspects) characters which are more than believable, they come to life. Plenty of ups and downs in this one, you finally get some reprieve, a glimmer of hope, and then the door is slammed in your face. You cannot even make out who is the 'bad' guys are half the time, but I think that was purposeful since we are all human and acting in what we perceive to be our best interests, especially in a dog eat dog world that was Paris in the 1880's with new wealth being generated creating different class interactions. There's so many characters that all have their own story. You feel pity, anger, sorrow, relief, all varying emotions for them as they progress along this story, certainly far from being one-dimensional. The ending seemed a bit too rushed for my liking, however the imagery leading up to it was some of the best I have read in a long time. Business is a machine, and if you get in its' way, you will be dealt with relentlessly. Funnily enough Futurama is on TV now, the episode being where the robots try to take over Earth.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nicole~

    3.5 stars I imagine a bewildered Émile Zola wandering into the crowds populating that new phenomenon that took Paris merchandising in the 19th century by storm - mass production and the creation of the one-stop mega-shop. He enters through the widely opened arms of polished French doors, having to blink tearily at the brilliantly lit chandeliers. Immediately, he is choked by perfumed mists diffusing the air and is submerged in whispers of fine French lace and ribbons, rows of rainbowed textures a 3.5 stars I imagine a bewildered Émile Zola wandering into the crowds populating that new phenomenon that took Paris merchandising in the 19th century by storm - mass production and the creation of the one-stop mega-shop. He enters through the widely opened arms of polished French doors, having to blink tearily at the brilliantly lit chandeliers. Immediately, he is choked by perfumed mists diffusing the air and is submerged in whispers of fine French lace and ribbons, rows of rainbowed textures and fabrics on display, corsets and lingerie accosting his libido. He raises his gaze to the vaulted ceiling and catches the shrewd eye of Octave Mouret, hovering watchfully at the balcony of the second floor and nods a gentlemanly greeting. With this brief upward glance, Zola becomes distracted, shuttled through the cogs of this enormous commercial machine, through its undulating channels, eventually misplacing his wife in the melée - the latter having spied a lady friend in the direction of the fine dresses salon, where time becomes lost and space is infinite. This is The Ladies' Paradise: the department store where all the whimsies of a woman are catered to in one majestic place; where romance, excitement and fantasy materialize through the latest in fashionable outerwear and underwear, notions, potions, novelties, household goods and other en vogue excesses not wholly necessary for ordinary life, are sold. (Ok, it's Macy's on steroids on 'discount day'!). Eleventh in Les Rougon-Macquart cycle, the novel is about modern consumerism and utopian fantasy, a 19th century rags- to-riches story. Denise Baudu is a humble and impoverished shopgirl who finds work in the flourishing department store, The Ladies' Paradise, trying to make ends meet to support her two brothers, but colliding with the worst of human flaws. The novel chronicles the struggle between the traditional shop, the Old Elbeuf (the declining establishment owned by Denise's uncle), and the monster department store owned by the innovative Octave Mouret. A habitual seducer of women, Mouret's own insatiable passion is to conquer the 'woman', to hold her at his mercy, to intoxicate her with unwavering attentiveness and manipulate her desires within his establishment. The art of the seduction is not in the boudoir but in the caresses of silk and lace finery found at the most efficient of merchandising mechanisms, with the unique ability to offer national brands at substantial reductions. Zola is a mesmerist when describing the scene of the crowd which takes on a protagonist role of its own. He details economic reinvention and capitalism fueled by consumers' neurotic impulses to shop, the system of mass production and the consequences its development had in revolutionizing the retail industry, in a story decked out in illusion, seduction, luxury, romance, class division, obsession and greed. Any criticism I might offer would be Zola's neglect in providing reasons for Denise's rise in the department - what merited such promotions? In the BBC series, a very sketchy interpretation of the novel by the way, Denise is shown as an astute, bright and quick thinking sales girl whose original ideas won her elevation in the store. In the novel, however, Denise remains a mousy innocent, extremely mindful of her virtue, afraid of her own shadow, promoted not by any skill of her own, it appears, but by Mouret's regret that her reputation was often tarnished by her peers; secondly, by his own desire to conquer her, which eventually, more deeply turns to love. The Ladies' Paradise is one of Zola's lighter novels in Les Rougon-Macquart series, yet gives some pause for reflection, to take stock of one's wants, needs and their intrinsic values: truthfully speaking, what price is a lady's satisfaction? Other Zola novels read so far: Therese Raquin **** The Dram Shop ( L' assommoir )**** The Beast Within ***** Germinal *****

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael Finocchiaro

    Zola's depiction of La Samaritain/Le Bon Marché - Paris' first department stores - is an absolute classic and a wonderfully entertaining read. Incredibly influential on his generation (Manet, etc), it is a photographic record of life in the 19th c as the bourgeoisie started wielding their consumer power and the lives of those in the poorer classes that risked being crushed in the onrush through the doors of the store. A must.

  6. 4 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction Translator's Note Select Bibliography A Chronology of Émile Zola Map --The Ladies' Paradise Explanatory Notes

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alice Poon

    This is novel #11 in the Rougon-Macquart series and was the 6th one in the series I had read so far (all selected at random). It so happened that all six are set in Paris. The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur Des Dames) is one where Zola is unwontedly light-handed with his prescription of human misery. This novel tells how a country girl Denise tries to settle in the glamorous city of Paris and courageously confronts all the mishaps and humiliation that her job as a junior saleswoman in a prestigious This is novel #11 in the Rougon-Macquart series and was the 6th one in the series I had read so far (all selected at random). It so happened that all six are set in Paris. The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur Des Dames) is one where Zola is unwontedly light-handed with his prescription of human misery. This novel tells how a country girl Denise tries to settle in the glamorous city of Paris and courageously confronts all the mishaps and humiliation that her job as a junior saleswoman in a prestigious department store entails. She witnesses how the innovative business model allows the establishment to grow from strength to strength under the management of the shrewd and handsome owner Octave Mouret, who is a young widower and womanizer. Her strong common sense, integrity and strength of will become her only tools of self defense in the material world filled with degrading temptations, to which most of her co-workers succumb. The worst trial comes when she realizes she has fallen in love with Mouret who, tired of his own dissolute private life, is deeply attracted to her. As the backdrop of the story, Zola paints a living picture of how the business of a luxury department store is run on a daily basis in mid-1800s Paris and how a rapacious expansion plan is carried out in tandem with the city’s ambitious massive infrastructure development. Beneath all the glamour though, there is a strong undertow that grieves the inevitable demise of small business shops and afflictions of their owners. The story also gives a realist’s glimpse into the lives of the average salesman and saleswoman employed in high-class department stores. This novel is said to have been inspired by the development of Les Grands Magasins du Louvre in the Place du Palais-Royal of that era. As with other novels in the R-M series I'd read, Zola showed the same mastery in this one with his descriptions of minutiae. What I liked even better though, was still his keen insight into the human psyche and interpersonal relationships, and how he captures the social paradigm shift of the times. I feel that at heart he was very much a democratic socialist. I’m giving this novel 4.5 stars rounded up. Other R-M novels I had read:- L’Oeuvre (The Masterpiece) – 4 stars Le Ventre (The Belly of Paris) – 4 stars L’Assommoir (The Dram Shop) – 5 stars La Curee (The Kill) – 5 stars Nana (Nana) – 4 stars Non-R-M novel I had read:- Therese Raquin – 3 stars

  8. 4 out of 5

    Phrodrick

    Having just finished a buddy read of Emile Zola’s The Ladies Paradise, I am in general agreement that this is a flawed four star book. Call it 3.5 with a major round up. Paradise is listed as the eleventh book in the “Rougon-Macquart" series, and is the sequel to Pot-Bouille, translated as Pot Luck in my English edition. In Pot Luck we are introduced to Octave Mouret, an aspiring barely middle class snot who marries his way into the ownership of a store, The Ladies Paradise. His wife and owner o Having just finished a buddy read of Emile Zola’s The Ladies Paradise, I am in general agreement that this is a flawed four star book. Call it 3.5 with a major round up. Paradise is listed as the eleventh book in the “Rougon-Macquart" series, and is the sequel to Pot-Bouille, translated as Pot Luck in my English edition. In Pot Luck we are introduced to Octave Mouret, an aspiring barely middle class snot who marries his way into the ownership of a store, The Ladies Paradise. His wife and owner of this shop dies, falling into a hole that will become part of the reborn new invention, The Ladies’ Paradise modern Department store. In this book Marat has built and continues to rebuild his newly invented store into a machine that industrializes the process of sales. Into this set up arrives a new thread bare, overburdened young county mouse, Denise Baudu. Between these three characters, The Store, its, owner and its new, over matched, innocent girl Zola builds his novel. Ladies’ Paradise is the result of fives years of Zola making a close study of the two department stores then making their debut in Paris. He relates to us with meticulous and exciting detail all of the inner mechanics and machination of this new living eating thing, the Department store. With equal parts resignation and road side accident curiosity he notes the effect of the new way of selling as a destructive, if un-stoppable force in retail. Local small stores of whatever age, tradition or hopes are bought out, literally undermined or simply withered under the effects of mass marketing, price wars and capitalistic competition. There are hints of back door deal making, but ultimately the success of the huge box store is that the small guys cannot compete. This should sound familiar in our age of internet based marketing challenging the big box, brick and mortar retailer. Zola takes us from the board rooms to the shipping rooms where we meet the staff and in the internal workings of this company as a living presence. Staff is alternatively, slick, seductive, conniving, sincere, submissive and fearful. Employee rights and benefits are not yet meaningful terms and arbitrary hire fire and promotion keeps people complicit, when they are not working to cut each other out. The great lie of the store is that it presents the promise that everything is about and for its predominately female fan base, that is customer. In fact, this promise is itself the deliberate cover for schemes, psychological machinations and applications of marketing over substance. Women are not so much the masters of this place as its pray. Women are intended to happily desire to feed their money into its always hungry maw. With Denise we get to see and feel the conflicts of a well meaning every woman. She has personal loyalties towards her family and friends from the world of traditional retail. She will have to chose to stay with these loyalties or her apparently instinctive grasp that the department store and its new way of selling is the future. She is also romantically inclined toward her boss’s boss’s boss, Octave Mouret. He will also become attracted to her given she is one of thousands of employees and several concurrent mistresses. It is the conflict represented by this may or may not be consummated romance that much of the human based plot is based. This is also the weakest part of the novel. We know Octave to be a serial womanizer and large-scale manipulator of women. Denise is not just innocent but highly principled, consciously, and conscientiously virginal. Given all of this what is a happy ending? It was the consensus of the buddy read that this ending is, facile less than credible and perhaps incomplete. For all, Zola is a good story teller. There is much of fact in his fiction. At least as it relates to the Store. The Ladies’ Paradise can be an exciting read, something few would associate with the story of a department store. There are several levels of human drama, most well presented. It is only in the resolution of the central human drama that our group of readers found disapointment.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sam

    This one deals with the monstrous effects of capitalism in France's Second Empire. Zola modeled The Ladies' Paradise after Bon Marché, a Paris shop which revolutionized consumer culture by acting as a sort of indoor bazaar, where one could find housewares, furniture, cloth, readymade clothing etc. in one place rather than traveling all around Paris to different little independent shops--like a mall, but all owned by the same company. Okay, fine, like a Walmart (with real silk). Workers assigned This one deals with the monstrous effects of capitalism in France's Second Empire. Zola modeled The Ladies' Paradise after Bon Marché, a Paris shop which revolutionized consumer culture by acting as a sort of indoor bazaar, where one could find housewares, furniture, cloth, readymade clothing etc. in one place rather than traveling all around Paris to different little independent shops--like a mall, but all owned by the same company. Okay, fine, like a Walmart (with real silk). Workers assigned to each department sell mostly on commission, their meager yearly salaries increasing with their positions, thus introducing the concept of "climbing the corporate ladder" to Paris' impoverished young workers. This results in a mind-numbing cycle of exploitation and reward; for those at the bottom there is nowhere else to go, due to the smaller businesses being swallowed up and the competitive wages of The Ladies' Paradise (despite being cruelly degraded by entitled customers, given inedible food, and having the constant anxiety of arbitrarily being told to "go and get paid!" a.k.a. "you're fired!" by Octave Mouret and other higher-ups). Those who are persistent or well-connected enough to ascend the ranks are convinced there is nowhere else but up, inciting them to clear their own paths up the ladder by any means necessary, with no attention to fairness, using the mangled bodies of others as their stepping stones. One class system is demolished only to give rise to another. Zola (as ever) writes convincing portraits of ruined lives and exhausted ambition, though in this novel no class is safe: the rich, the bourgeoisie, and the poor are all uniformly ground up in the machine. The individuals who do escape have the moral burden of having done so at the expense of many others. Paris' love affair with capitalism, paralleled in Denise's love affair with Octave: "Mouret had invented this mechanism for crushing the world, and its brutal working shocked her; he had sown ruin all over the neighborhood, despoiled some, killed others; and yet she loved him for the grandeur of his work, she loved him still more at every excess of his power, notwithstanding the flood of tears which overcame her, before the sacred misery of the vanquished."

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    A little too on the nose at times, and the plot itself is pretty perfunctory, but his description of (and critique of) the emergence of the department store is brilliantly done. While his point about the commodification of women is hammered repeatedly over our heads, it is a good enough point, and is being said impressively early enough in the process, to warrant such repetition.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Thanks Dagny to made its proofing. Free download audio version at LibriVox. Thanks for the tip Amy! From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial: By Emile Zola. Dramatised by Carine Adler. Business, ambition and fashion all collide in Zola's colourful love story. Set in the hustle and excitement of the expansion of one of Paris' first department stores. Episode One When innocent provincial girl Denise arrives in Paris, she quickly catches the eye of the notorious sed Free download available at Project Gutenberg. Thanks Dagny to made its proofing. Free download audio version at LibriVox. Thanks for the tip Amy! From BBC Radio 4 - Classical Serial: By Emile Zola. Dramatised by Carine Adler. Business, ambition and fashion all collide in Zola's colourful love story. Set in the hustle and excitement of the expansion of one of Paris' first department stores. Episode One When innocent provincial girl Denise arrives in Paris, she quickly catches the eye of the notorious seducer of women, Octave Mouret. Despite her uncle's disapproval, Denise accepts a job at Mouret's ever expanding department store The Ladies' Delight. Episode Two After her dismissal from The Ladies' Delight, Denise is determined to stay in Paris. She rents a room above old Bourras' umbrella shop and quickly sets about trying to find other work. With local shops closing as The Delight expands, the task proves more difficult than she imagined. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tt3x1

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tatiana

    The Ladies' Paradise (Les Rougon-Macquart, #11) used to be one of my all-time favorite books. In my teenage years. And now I remember why. Of course, it's the lurve. In this novel, Denise, a lowly sales girl working at a huge department store, snags a husband who is this store's rich playboy owner, Octave Mouret. Somehow, what seemed uber-romantic to me at 13, isn't any more now. You see, Denise basically gets her man by not putting out. Octave is used to getting any woman he wants, but Denise, The Ladies' Paradise (Les Rougon-Macquart, #11) used to be one of my all-time favorite books. In my teenage years. And now I remember why. Of course, it's the lurve. In this novel, Denise, a lowly sales girl working at a huge department store, snags a husband who is this store's rich playboy owner, Octave Mouret. Somehow, what seemed uber-romantic to me at 13, isn't any more now. You see, Denise basically gets her man by not putting out. Octave is used to getting any woman he wants, but Denise, a virtuous woman she is, keeps saying "no." Of course, he is smitten. It's not that I have anything against virtue, but I prefer when romances are built on something bigger than that. And as for Denise herself, she is no longer the type of a heroine I admire. She is purer than first snow (when all other woman around her are loose tarts), she is a martyr, who takes abuse without a word (but with dignity - how do you do that?), is taken advantage of and endures instead of being proactive. But do not let this deter you from reading this novel. Émile Zola is a remarkable writer. His 20-part Les Rougon-Macquart cycle is an ambitious work that explores many areas of French society during the Second French Empire. In this particular novel Zola depicts the world of a department store, an innovation of the 19th century that changed the landscape of the retail business. It is surprising that so many tricks that are used today in commerce, were invented over a hundred years ago - mail-order business, sales, commissions, employee benefits, even the layout of the stores where you can't find all you need in one place but have to roam around and get seduced by other goods you first didn't have any intentions to buy. Zola even touches upon shopaholics and shoplifters. Interesting stuff. I am now curious if my opinion of other favorite books in this series will be different. Will I enjoy Zola's novels about prostitution (Nana) and coalminers (Germinal) as much as I did before?

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Absolutely lush. Gorgeous.

  14. 4 out of 5

    ȷαεlα

    I read this book when I was very young, and it has been so long since then. Of course it's my next to-re-read book. It is one of my all-time favorites. I just love it, LOVE it! I have no words. This book is a masterpiece! I highly recommend it. Everyone should read it, the girls at least... I would like to read a modern-era book of this subject. 1000 stars *****

  15. 5 out of 5

    snackywombat (v.m.)

    This book is truly a classic, and the whole time I was reading it, I was reminded of those summer reading lists that I always had in high school, full of lofty tomes that looked dusty and boring but when I knuckled down into them, they would suddenly refine my lazy summer of peaches, sunshine and secret cigarettes. Brideshead Revisited, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Sister Carrie... these are the ones I remember curling up in a deck chair with, glass of lemonade in hand. Books like these give us pu This book is truly a classic, and the whole time I was reading it, I was reminded of those summer reading lists that I always had in high school, full of lofty tomes that looked dusty and boring but when I knuckled down into them, they would suddenly refine my lazy summer of peaches, sunshine and secret cigarettes. Brideshead Revisited, Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Sister Carrie... these are the ones I remember curling up in a deck chair with, glass of lemonade in hand. Books like these give us purpose -- The Ladies' Paradise is more than a tortured love story, although it is that indeed. It's the history of industrialization and urbanization, and makes that early fetal stage of the modern economy actually fascinating. Zola is obviously obsessed with Paris, or rather the new Paris, the one growing outcrops of large department stores and rampant consumerism; spurting jobs that draw rustic country people to the city; opening the avenues of class to allow rich bourgeois store owners to ascend into the upper ranks. And then there is the Cinderella story of the main character, Denise Baudu, a homely orphan who arrives in Paris wearing a threadbare black dress and clogs (the horror!) with her younger brothers in tow and succeeds in becoming not only a respected and skilled professional but also (alas) retains her virginity and modesty. Fashion is an excessively important symbol in this novel for tons of social nuances, and the lengthy descriptions of materials and displays in the store can get tedious, but the interest created in the characters of Octave Mouret and Denise sustain the reader.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Speranza

    Only Zola is able to create a masterpiece despite a flat, one-dimensional, saint-like main character and a dull ending. Capitalism doesn't seem to have come a long way in the past 100 or so years and humanity doesn't either.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    loved this book! I have a mountain of other things to read but after seeing the BBC series created out of Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise I couldn’t resist bringing it home from the library. However, I also stumbled across Julian Barnes Levels of Life that day – and it was so beautiful and wise that I read and reviewed that first, and then I found myself with only a day to read all 480 pages of The Ladies’ Paradise and no, I couldn’t renew it because it’s in high demand at the library. By the loved this book! I have a mountain of other things to read but after seeing the BBC series created out of Émile Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise I couldn’t resist bringing it home from the library. However, I also stumbled across Julian Barnes Levels of Life that day – and it was so beautiful and wise that I read and reviewed that first, and then I found myself with only a day to read all 480 pages of The Ladies’ Paradise and no, I couldn’t renew it because it’s in high demand at the library. By the time I had read the brilliant introduction by Brian Nelson and the first chapter I knew I had to finish the story without waiting for a copy by snail mail, so I resurrected the hated Kindle to buy a copy from You-Know-Who. And because I had fallen in love with Zola I succumbed to buying a Collected Works edition. How different could it be, I thought? Quite different. Not just ignorant proof-reading errors like shoot instead of chute and a disconcerting he instead of she in a crucial piece of dialogue, and the translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly (1853–1922) has a quaint way with words like jades and fanfaronade. There are also shades of meaning which matter, when a young woman’s rival is stout instead of buxom. But more importantly The Complete Works of Émile Zola lacks Brian Nelson’s introduction, which places this novel in a context which is still very relevant today. So, take my advice, if you are going to read anything by Zola – don’t do as I did, but do as I mean to do from now onwards: make sure you get hold of the five Oxford World’s Classics titles which have been translated by Brian Nelson, professor of French Studies at Monash University, Melbourne and editor of the Australian Journal of French Studies. Zola is famous for his series about the Rougon-Macquart family, which he used to express his pseudo-scientific belief that ‘human behaviour is determined by heredity and environment’ (p. vii). He wrote ten novels and a short story about this family using the descendants of the three children of an insane woman called Tante Dide to show that they were fated to live out their warped heredity. The offspring of the legitimate child prosper, while the fortunes of the illegitimate strand vary. The Macquarts are unbalanced and prone to violence as I saw in Germinal (see my review) while the Mouret family are ‘successful bourgeois adventurers‘ (p. viii). According to Nelson, The Ladies’ Paradise was a shift in outlook for Zola, who in the character of Octave Mouret focusses on a self-made man capitalising on opportunity in the new Paris. (Quite different to his story of the prostitute Nana, which I have in a nice old Folio Society edition on my TBR). But these biographical details aside, what captivated me about Brian Nelson’s introduction was the way he analysed the book as an exploration of the new 19th century consumerism and commodity culture. To read the rest of my review please visit http://anzlitlovers.com/2013/05/31/th...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gill

    I think I probably like this novel best of all the Zola novels we have read. (view spoiler)[ I enjoyed the various strands in the book. The small business men and their families and shops. It seemed really sad that they weren't able to see any successful way to stand up to Mouret and his expanding business. I know some of them made attempts eg price cutting but none of them was successful. I thought the umbrella maker might stand a chance with the extremely detailed handles he was carving. Certain I think I probably like this novel best of all the Zola novels we have read. (view spoiler)[ I enjoyed the various strands in the book. The small business men and their families and shops. It seemed really sad that they weren't able to see any successful way to stand up to Mouret and his expanding business. I know some of them made attempts eg price cutting but none of them was successful. I thought the umbrella maker might stand a chance with the extremely detailed handles he was carving. Certainly nowadays it tends to be the small, very specialised business that stands out against the superstore. The small businesses in the book didn't offer very good personal service though did they? Well not the sort of personal service that the new clientele seemed to want. I found the description of the conditions for the staff at Ladies' Paradise, and how they changed over time, very interesting. Zola excels at the small details. eg the description of the dining rooms and food for the staff. Although Zola shows how much of a machine the shop was, he also brings the individual members of staff to life. He describes gossip so well! I like the descriptions of how the store changed over time, and the tactics that were used to increase sales. The customers were interesting in that they seemed very similar to nowadays.eg led by one another, buying things they didn't really need, overspending, trying to outdo each other, responding to flattery etc etc Zola was good at showing how the various social classes were changing over time eg fallen poor aristocracy, rise of shop-workers etc etc. I loved the descriptions of the goods for sale, especially the fabrics. You could smell them and feel them and see what they looked like. Very similar to the descriptions of the markets in 'The Belly of Paris'. And then there are the 'main' characters, Denise and Mouret. I thought Zola made Denise a more complex character than he does many of them. She was so dignified. Mouret was a more typical Zola character. Their stories were told well enough. I appreciated Zola's writing in this novel. I didn't feel he was ramming his point of view down my throat as much as in some of the other Rougon-Maquart novels. Perhaps his point of view was more complex, in itself, than in some of the other books? (hide spoiler)]

  19. 4 out of 5

    Greg Brozeit

    I didn't want to like this book. A novel about the birth of the modern department store? How could that be interesting? And once again, Zola proves me wrong. I think he could take any subject and make it gripping. Although it was set during the time of the Second Empire of France, much of the plot is as relevant today as when it was written. Two chapters were particularly fascinating: one about the day of the first big sale—the imagery of the river sucking in the customers was addictive—and anoth I didn't want to like this book. A novel about the birth of the modern department store? How could that be interesting? And once again, Zola proves me wrong. I think he could take any subject and make it gripping. Although it was set during the time of the Second Empire of France, much of the plot is as relevant today as when it was written. Two chapters were particularly fascinating: one about the day of the first big sale—the imagery of the river sucking in the customers was addictive—and another about the demise of the artisan shopkeepers using the metaphor of a death and the subsequent funeral and mourning. The protagonist, Denise, is among the few of Zola's characters in the Rougon-Macquart cycle who is sympathetic and honorable throughout the story. The transformation of Octave Mouret, who we got to know in Pot Luck (Pot Bouille), is a pleasant surprise. He was such a unlikeable character in the earlier novel. In this story, we witness growth and admire his brilliance in business.

  20. 5 out of 5

    John

    One of Zola’s best.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Imran Ahmed

    French author Emile Zola (1840 – 1902) was above all a social observer. His works provide a window into the nineteenth century. The Ladies Paradise, first published in 1883, is a sociological study of the time disguised within an exceptional novel. The novel uses the lives of two principal characters – Mouret and Denise – to illustrate societal dislocations as a new order slowly destroys the old order. This includes the suffering of people unable to adjust and make way for the new and the hold o French author Emile Zola (1840 – 1902) was above all a social observer. His works provide a window into the nineteenth century. The Ladies Paradise, first published in 1883, is a sociological study of the time disguised within an exceptional novel. The novel uses the lives of two principal characters – Mouret and Denise – to illustrate societal dislocations as a new order slowly destroys the old order. This includes the suffering of people unable to adjust and make way for the new and the hold outs hanging on to the past as if their entire being depended on it. Mouret is a new breed of businessman (entrepreneur?) radically transforming retail trade in Paris. He is powerful, focused and hard working. He is also used to getting what he wants out of life, including women. Few obstacles were strong enough to challenge the march of Mouret's vision in creating an universal department store selling all manner of things; that in an age of shops specializing in individual trades. For example, one shop sold lace while another sold velvet and yet a third sold knick-knacks. None sold all three under one roof – that is until Mouret's store, The Ladies Paradise. Denise is a poor, country girl who finds herself not only struggling to survive in the big city but also in the politics and chicanery of employees at Mouret's store. With a little help from Mouret, Denise survives a brutal initiation at the Ladies Paradise and starts to make her presence felt. (Mouret simply wants to add Denise to his list of conquests.) Life of course never moves in a straight line. Neither does a good novel. Over time, along with his obsession of growing his department store, Mouret's develops an unhealthy obsession with conquering Denise. Meanwhile, Denise has gathered all the wiles of any Parisian noblewoman and innocently uses Mouret's infatuation to influence the evolution of the Ladies Paradise. Zola is a master in symbolism and the novel contains notable use of the tool. The novel is written in rich, descriptive prose very different from the brief 'no extras included' copy writing in fashion today. While The Ladies Paradise will appeal to the analytical reader looking to obtain insights into the human psyche and society it is also a simple story of a young country girl out to survive in the glittering big city. I am available on Instagram (@imranahmedsg); twitter (@grandmoofti) and can be contacted at [email protected]

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I've never been a big fan of just shopping for shopping's sake. When I need to buy something, I like to get in, get it, and leave the store. I think if I liked shopping more I'd have given this book a higher rating. The main character in this book is the department store itself. It was interesting to see the development of the modern megastore way back in 19th. century Paris. The financing, marketing, and logistics of running such a huge enterprise was fascinating to read about. However, there wa I've never been a big fan of just shopping for shopping's sake. When I need to buy something, I like to get in, get it, and leave the store. I think if I liked shopping more I'd have given this book a higher rating. The main character in this book is the department store itself. It was interesting to see the development of the modern megastore way back in 19th. century Paris. The financing, marketing, and logistics of running such a huge enterprise was fascinating to read about. However, there was some repetition in the plot that failed to hold my interest. The store would be made larger, departments added and the merchandise displays would be endlessly described in great detail. Then a huge sale would take place, with hordes of female customers in raptures of purchasing items. This formula was repeated more than once, and for me once was enough. Not my favorite Zola novel, but not horrible either. Shopaholics might love it, though.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dagny

    Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) refers to one of the first huge department stores. First published in 1883, although fiction, it is fascinating to learn that there were huge department stores with thousands of employees and even a mail order division one hundred and twenty years ago. The story focuses on Denise, a young woman who arrives in Paris with her two younger brothers after the death of their parents leaves them without means. Denise has counted on obtaining employment at her Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies' Delight) refers to one of the first huge department stores. First published in 1883, although fiction, it is fascinating to learn that there were huge department stores with thousands of employees and even a mail order division one hundred and twenty years ago. The story focuses on Denise, a young woman who arrives in Paris with her two younger brothers after the death of their parents leaves them without means. Denise has counted on obtaining employment at her uncle's shop. However, when she arrives she discovers that his shop is just one of the many small business that are being slowly run out of business and consumed by Au Bonheur des Dames.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ilana

    A young girl called Denise Baudu arrives in Paris from the provinces with her two younger brothers to look for work, following the death of their parents. She pays a visit to her uncle, who owns a notions shop, hoping she can count on him to put them up and give her work, having previous experience as a salesgirl. But her uncle's business is hurting, as are all the other small specialty shops on the street, and he can't give her work, nor can any of the other local respectable family businesses, A young girl called Denise Baudu arrives in Paris from the provinces with her two younger brothers to look for work, following the death of their parents. She pays a visit to her uncle, who owns a notions shop, hoping she can count on him to put them up and give her work, having previous experience as a salesgirl. But her uncle's business is hurting, as are all the other small specialty shops on the street, and he can't give her work, nor can any of the other local respectable family businesses, thanks to the relentless growth of what also started as a small shop but has now grown into a huge new department store, The Ladies' Paradise of the title. We'd met the owner of the department store, Octave Mouret, in the previous novel Pot Luck, in which he himself had just arrived from the provinces, filled with dreams and counting on making them come true by seducing rich women willing to part with some cash to secure his charms. Now he is a young and rich widower, and with his innovative big business ideas, has made a huge success of his department store which is turning into a veritable empire, which all the wealthy women of Paris flock to for the large selection of merchandise and the pull of strategical low pricing. Mouret prides himself on having used women to succeed in life, and now continues to take pride in the fact that all women are now at his mercy, since he knows how to manipulate their desires to turn them into dedicated customers. Denise finds work there, since it is the biggest employer in the area, and while she suffers the unending taunts and malice of her coworkers for being the unsophisticated newcomer from the provinces, she's immediately drawn to Mouret, whom she admires for his bold business ideas. But unlike the other salesgirls who are only too glad to supplement their meagre income with extras from lovers on the side—while hoping Mouret will choose them as his next playthings with all the bonuses that implies—, Denise is determined she won't give herself away at any price. This leads Mouret to rue his success which brings him all the riches in the world, but not the one woman he progressively and predictably enough becomes completed obsessed with (being the only one who won't abandon herself to him, naturally). The struggle between the small business owners and a giant superstore were a relatively new phenomenon when this novel was published in 1883, and though this market dynamic is old hat to us in the 21st century, I still found it to be one of the most poignant parts of the story. The trouble I had with this novel is there is very little story or character development, since the Ladies' Paradise itself is the main protagonist, and Zola, in his characteristic way, depicts it in lavish detail, with countless descriptions of the merchandise and displays, and the inner workings of the store and rivalries and gossip among what eventually grow to be thousands of employees. This in itself would have been interesting, but the lists of items described went on endlessly, so that very little happened story wise in the process. There is an endlessly drawn out paroxysm of the biggest display of all the tints of white merchandise ever seen in Paris before, which I believe went on for three chapters. It all sounded very very pretty, but really tiresome in the end, much like an entire day spent shopping, something I've grown jaded to, which must show my middle age. Very glad I've finally finished this one and can now move on to the other books in the series.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    The Ladies’ Paradise was one of those books I meant to read, expected to love, but never quite got to for a long, long time. Now I have finished reading, I am inclined to say that the verdict is flawed but fabulous. Let me explain. The story begins with twenty year-old Denise Baudu and her two young brothers arriving in Paris from the country. Denise has done her best for her brothers since their parents died, but she was struggling, and so she came to Paris to take up the offer of help and supp The Ladies’ Paradise was one of those books I meant to read, expected to love, but never quite got to for a long, long time. Now I have finished reading, I am inclined to say that the verdict is flawed but fabulous. Let me explain. The story begins with twenty year-old Denise Baudu and her two young brothers arriving in Paris from the country. Denise has done her best for her brothers since their parents died, but she was struggling, and so she came to Paris to take up the offer of help and support that her uncle had offered. I was immediately pulled in by the storytelling, and I worried that maybe that offer was the kind you make but expect never to be taken up. And indeed it was. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to help but he was struggling, his small shop losing business to the expanding department store across the street: The Ladies’ Paradise. And that presented Denise with a problem: she had to work, but the only work available was at The Ladies’ Paradise. The establishment hated and resented by her uncle and his neighbours. She understood their feelings, but she had to work, and she was drawn to dazzling emporium. Denise secured a job. And she stepped into The Ladies’ Paradise. There is so much to say about The Ladies’ Paradise. It is an almost magical emporium, a huge department store that grew from a small draper’s shop, packed full of seductive colours, fabrics, clothes, furnishing, and so much more. The descriptions are rich, detailed, and utterly captivating. It draws in the ladies of Paris very cleverly, with carefully planned layouts, seasonal sales, attentive service, such well thought out, modern marketing. So much modernity, but behind the scenes it was rather different. For the staff it was not so very different from life in service in a big house. They lived in dormitories, ate in a canteen, had little time of their own, and had to work, work, work to secure the commission they so desperately needed and to hold on to their jobs. Denise struggled at first, and she was easy prey for ambitious, ruthless salesgirls. But she knew she had to support her family, she held on to her principles, and, though there were many setbacks, in time she would rise through the ranks. And Denise caught the eye of Octave Mouret: the creator, the owner of The Ladies’ Paradise. A man who knows how to seduce women, in his private life and in his wonderous emporium. But Denise is the woman who will not be seduced. And of course, that makes her all the more fascinating … The Ladies’ Paradise held me from start to finish. With wonderful, readable storytelling. With rich descriptions, and so, so many details. And with some quite extraordinary set-pieces. I’m afraid that the characters didn’t quite live up to all of that. The leads were a little too predictable, a little too straightforward, and the supporting cast a little too one-dimensional. And the view of human nature was a little bleak. So many thoughtless, selfish people. But I loved watching the social changes that the department store was bringing, and I was captivated by the nicely predictable love story. And now I am wondering which of Zola’s works to read next.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Diane

    It was with fear and trepidation that I started Zola's "Ladies' Delight" - I was still reeling from "Therese Raquin". I desperately wanted a strong, good woman character with a positive ending. This would have to be one of Zola's more accessible books (is this phase still used) as it plots the course of beautiful, determined and honourable Denise, a real worker and in her way, a visionary. Orphaned and penniless Denise and her little brother Jean arrive on the doorstep of their Uncle Baudu, hoping to b It was with fear and trepidation that I started Zola's "Ladies' Delight" - I was still reeling from "Therese Raquin". I desperately wanted a strong, good woman character with a positive ending. This would have to be one of Zola's more accessible books (is this phase still used) as it plots the course of beautiful, determined and honourable Denise, a real worker and in her way, a visionary. Orphaned and penniless Denise and her little brother Jean arrive on the doorstep of their Uncle Baudu, hoping to be given work and shelter but their uncle's shop, a run down haberdashery is under the shadow of "Ladies' Delight", a looming department store that even as the story starts is planning on expansion. Interesting thing, a few months ago there was an English serial on TV called "The Paradise" - it was a very loose adaptation of "Ladies' Delight", not that you'd recognize it - all style and no substance. Instead of France it was set in the north of England and the sub plot that made Zola's novel great, the smaller shops being sucked into the vortex of the huge department store's tentacles was almost missing!! Another missing part was the sub-plot involving dissolute Jean - it seems Zola must always have a despicable man among his characters. It is on account of Jean's recklessness that they seek out their Uncle. Even thought Jean has not been paid for his apprenticeship to a cabinet maker in their home town, he has developed a taste for the finer things of life - due to his scandalous affair with a young girl. And for most of the book his extravagances push Denise to brink of penury and despair. Denise, in desperation, gets a job in "The Ladies' Delight" - much to her Uncle's disgust but it is here that her hard work and organisational skills bring her to the notice of Mouret, the all powerful owner. Mouret is a lady's man and has current and discarded mistresses among the shop girls - he becomes very interested in her but Denise's only interest is in getting on. Another striking feature of the book is the lush descriptions of the fabrics and the interior of the shop - the sumptuous furnishings and of how the "lay out" of the shop begins to take place. In dire contrast with the awfulness and dirt and grime of the street where other shop owners are driven mad as they are engulfed by this light emblazoned monster. Definitely I would recommend this as an introduction to Zola - for once a heroine who is resourceful and virtuous and keeps these qualities to give her a happy ending.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    I had high expectations on this novel. Could have something to do with BBC's adaptation. I won't say I was disappointed but I wasn't really happy either. I blame BBC. The novel is set in the late 1900 century Paris. Denise and her two younger brothers comes to Paris to make a living after their parent's death. She was hoping to get help from her uncle, but as it turns out, a large department store has opened just opposite the uncle's shop and all the smaller shops around this "monstrosity" are on I had high expectations on this novel. Could have something to do with BBC's adaptation. I won't say I was disappointed but I wasn't really happy either. I blame BBC. The novel is set in the late 1900 century Paris. Denise and her two younger brothers comes to Paris to make a living after their parent's death. She was hoping to get help from her uncle, but as it turns out, a large department store has opened just opposite the uncle's shop and all the smaller shops around this "monstrosity" are on the brink of bankruptcy. Monsieur Mouret is the genius behind this "monstrosity", that he has created to "seduce" his female costumers. When Denise walks into his life everything changes. He who is used to always get what he wants, suddenly gets a no. He can't even understand why he wants her so, it can't only be because she's the only one who has turned him down. Eventually he throws himself at her feet, begging her to love him. The only thing I can think is "how on earth has she got the heart to say no?" and not only once but lots of times. This makes my reading a bit annoyed and hastened, but I did get to enjoy Zola's vivid language and sometimes too embellished and detailed accounts of dresses and buildings. In BBC's adaptation, the setting is moved to England and Monsieur Mouret is now Mr Morey and played by Emun Elliot (Game of Thrones and Prometheus) who is perfect for the role as the seductive store owner. Denise (Joanna Vanderham) comes to town, without brothers here, and falls head over heels for Morey (who wouldn't?), but keeps fighting the it and not fall to temptation. Denise takes more room in the adaptation, and she's not as teased as in the novel. It's thanks to the adaptation, which I happened upon on facebook (the great think about following pages such as British period drama who tells you about new great series!), that I found the novel and I'm thankful! I do hope the tv-series will find it's way to Sweden, so that all of you, who hasn't BBC on their tv box or is skulking around the net to find streaming services, can also enjoy this wonderful tv-series. Until then, you can always read the book!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Individualfrog

    As I work in a department store in real life, I can tell you that nothing has changed, except that the giant megastores now crushing the little guy are the even more soulless and vile Amazon and Walmart. The department stores, which are now sort of the little guys getting crushed, have mostly changed for the worse, although it is nice that we don't work 13 hour days anymore. The main thing, as Zola emphasizes (unlike any contemporary I've ever read), is that commission-based pay is a tool for de As I work in a department store in real life, I can tell you that nothing has changed, except that the giant megastores now crushing the little guy are the even more soulless and vile Amazon and Walmart. The department stores, which are now sort of the little guys getting crushed, have mostly changed for the worse, although it is nice that we don't work 13 hour days anymore. The main thing, as Zola emphasizes (unlike any contemporary I've ever read), is that commission-based pay is a tool for destroying solidarity and making workers blame each other, instead of the boss, for their shitty pay. Thank god I don't work on commission, but everyone who does hates everybody else, and they never think to point the finger at anyone but their equally oppressed peers. As I expected, this book is at its best when presenting an overflowing banquet of description of luxury, excess, sensory overload -- the goods, the displays, the crowds, the perks and advertisements. The love story is a bust, in an unexpected way. I think of Zola as a frank, unromantic realist; but in this book the heroine wins all through the extremely Victorian means of jealously guarding her chastity, and gets the guy through the magical power of her spotless virginity. Who got this Dickens in my Zola? She's only interesting when she's guiltily rapturous about the glories of modern capitalism, which, I would guess from the context, probably reflects Zola's own feelings -- "it sucks but it's necessary". Which is also a bit disappointing, but less dreary than the socialist sort of social realist books that I agree with more politically.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Katrina Passick Lumsden

    To say Emile Zola had a way with words would be an insulting understatement. This is a great story, a study of the effects of capitalism as well as a study of human behavior. My only complaint would be that Zola was oftentimes a bit too wordy. Setting that aside, I was fascinated by the portrayal of the rise of the first department store in France and the effect it had on its section of Paris. Zola managed to present it in such a way wherein both parties (the big store "counter jumpers" and the To say Emile Zola had a way with words would be an insulting understatement. This is a great story, a study of the effects of capitalism as well as a study of human behavior. My only complaint would be that Zola was oftentimes a bit too wordy. Setting that aside, I was fascinated by the portrayal of the rise of the first department store in France and the effect it had on its section of Paris. Zola managed to present it in such a way wherein both parties (the big store "counter jumpers" and the small business mom and pop stores) are guilty and innocent. He tells the story without asking the reader to choose a side because, ultimately, both sides are simultaneously right and wrong. It's a long book, so don't expect to finish it in one night. I came close only because I'm a fast reader and the tension between Denise and Mouret had me scrambling to see what happened between them. The ending was a bit too abrupt for my taste, but hey, you can't have everything. And while Mouret was often infuriating with his almost ironic misogyny, his quick wit and passion for life bleed through the page. One can't help but feel like they want to be friends with him even while he's using people and discarding them like tissues. "What! Do I enjoy myself! What's this nonsense you're saying? You're in a sorry state! Of course I enjoy myself, even when things go wrong, because then I'm furious at seeing them go wrong. I'm a passionate fellow; I don't take life calmly, and perhaps that's just why I'm interested in it."

  30. 5 out of 5

    Gwen Cooper

    A total Cinderella story set against the backdrop of shopping (!!!) in Paris (!!!)--maybe I'm the girliest girl who ever girled, but I absolutely loved this book. In addition to the romance plot and gorgeous descriptions of 19th Century silks and satins, this was also a fascinating look back at the world's very first department store and the origins of many of the commercial conventions (sales commissions, markdowns, gifts-with-purchase) that we take for granted today. A great summer read!

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