Zola's prophetic celebration of unbridled commerce and consumerism, "The Ladies' Paradise" ("Au bonheur des dames, " 1883) recounts the frenzied transformations that made late nineteenth-century Paris the fashion capital of the world. The novel's capitalist hero, Octave Mouret, creates a giant department store that devours the dusty, outmoded ...Read MoreZola's prophetic celebration of unbridled commerce and consumerism, "The Ladies' Paradise" ("Au bonheur des dames, " 1883) recounts the frenzied transformations that made late nineteenth-century Paris the fashion capital of the world. The novel's capitalist hero, Octave Mouret, creates a giant department store that devours the dusty, outmoded boutiques surrounding it. Paralleling the story of commercial triumph is the love story between Mouret and the innocent Denise Baudu, who comes to work in The Ladies' Paradise. She provides the crucial link between Mouret and the three essential social groups in the novel: the female clientele, the shopgirls, and the petit bourgeois shopkeepers of the neighborhood. But the store itself plays the leading role. Zola celebrates capitalism, commerce, and consumerism with a kind of prophetic optimism, calling this novel "a poem of modern activity." The work's interest for readers in feminist, cultural, and social history and theory is made abundantly clear in the introduction by Kristin Ross, and the fiction is reproduced in its colorful, 1886 English translation.Read Less
I wanted to read the original book in order to see how it differed from the PBS program. It does in a couple of instances but for the most part the tv version is pretty good. I loved the book and very happy I could read Zola. Looking into more books by Emile Zola.
Jan 10, 2008
be drawn into a love story
I remember this book as being one of the first books i read in college. It had an ok cover, was a little worn and was introduced to me as being a tool for looking at the history of the Parisian department store. I soon discovered that it was more deeply a look at the changing human psyche at the time. the small business owner is crushed, people's wallets are swallowed whole, but what of the powerful male despot at the top of the ladder. An unsuspecting young woman now has the freedom and capability to unseat him, but will she, or will she be destroyed. I felt with every page the fragility of both the characters, teetering precariously in new societal roles, and the sad unraveling of the precious intimacy of the small shops. Yet intimacy is to be found when within the crumbling of society and the shops surrounding the grand department store we still find the glimmer of humanity in a surprising twist of fate and love.
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