Friday, July 17, 2015

The Ladies' Paradise by Emile Zola, 438 pages

I'm making a confession right up front, I don't read a lot of classic literature.  However, this is the current book club selection for the Downtown group so I dutifully read it.

Emile Zola was a  popular French author who lived from 1840 -1902.  He wrote a 20 volume series about life in France and "The Ladies Paradise" was book #11.  It was originally published in 1883.

On the one hand this is a fascinating story.  It is set in Paris in the 1860s and details the rise of the fictional Ladies Paradise, a grand department store that put many smaller retailers out of business.  The descriptions of the smaller retailers struggling against the mega business kept reminding me of what we all say about Walmart.  Obviously, there is nothing new under the sun.

The not so fascinating part of the book is the love story between the angelic and impossibly pure Denise Baudu  and the rakish Octave Moret, owner of the Ladies Paradise.  I found the general lack of any real character development made this book somewhat difficult to plow through.

Denise was an orphan who came to Paris with her two younger brothers and was immediately mesmerized by the Ladies' Paradise even though her uncle's shop was in direct competition with it and was dying a slow and painful death.  Her uncle couldn't employ her so she, of course, got a job at the Ladies' Paradise.  And the story goes.

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