Belle Epoque
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Belle Epoque

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3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  1,354 ratings  ·  337 reviews
When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers (first published January 1st 2013)
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Community Reviews

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Khanh (Destroyer of Dreams)
"'Mother Nature is not democratic. Look at the orchid compared with the dandelion: one exotic and rare, the other a common weed...And so with beauty. Some have an advantage, some a cross to bear. Some just fade into the background, forever plain and obscure---invisible, inconsequential.'"
What a beautiful, unexpected little book. I came in without much expectations, since the premise of a "repoussoir" is not a commonly used concept in fiction. I suppose in modern terms, one could refer to the...more
Monica!
Oh, Belle Epoque.

I’m so sad that I only so-so enjoyed you, because look at your cover! LOOK AT IT! So pretty!

But alas, if we’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that beauty doesn’t actually amount to much of anything in the long run. (What you really need is money!) (Ha ha! Just kidding!) (No, but seriously, money.) And while the cover was gorgeous, the story inside was decidedly lackluster.

Maude, our fearless narrator, has been trained as a repoussoir; she is a plain-looking girl who is...more
Amanda Sun
This book is absolutely fantastic. The time period has been clearly well researched and comes off as very genuine and fascinating, in both the descriptions of Paris, the life of the high society, and the voice/thoughts of the narrator.

There were some very lovely revelations throughout the book that moved me, and I came away from the book feeling very understood and validated as an artist and an individual.

The plot of the booked arced beautifully, the pressure building at just the right pace in b...more
the golden witch.
4.5/5 stars!

This was actually a really educational read for me - the author's notes at the end of the book were wonderful, and it was so gratifying to see that Ross did her research on the topic of which I had no idea existed. "Belle Epoque" is a gorgeous tale of finding beauty in ugliness, ugliness in beauty, and most of all, finding yourself in a sea of what people want you to be. This was one of my most anticipated spring/summer 2013 titles, and it definitely did not disappoint. If you're loo...more
Jessica
Belle Époque

Belle Époque by Elizabeth Ross is historical fiction taking place in late 1800's when "Everything is for sale in Paris." It is a book with a lot of promise and possibility that is, unfortunately, wasted in telling rather than showing. There is no heart and little substance to follow it up.

The premise of the book is that when something average is placed next to something less than or uglier the average becomes better or more beautiful "the rule of comparison." In the case of the book...more
Amelia
I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but the concept of BELLE EPOQUE drew me in immediately: women rented out as ugly foils to society debutantes in 19th century Paris? It seems just absurd (and repulsive) enough to have been true! Elizabeth Ross certainly makes it feel true as she brings country girl Maude Pichon to life in this dazzling, Bronte-esque novel that lives up to the promise of its brilliant premise.

When I was teaching English at an all girls’ school, I would have added this...more
Lilliam Rivera
I was lucky enough to read Belle Epoque and I can't rave enough about it. It's a beautiful, well written debut. Elizabeth Ross captures the bohemian world of Paris with a lead character who is strong but torn, who is seduced by a wealthy society but also wants to do the right thing. She's totally believable. I love the world of the Durandeau Agency where the privileged set is able to rent a friend. The wonderful thing about Belle Epoque is that it's a perfect novel for someone who finds historic...more
Kayla Beck
Review originally posted on Bibliophilia, Please.

Belle Epoque , the debut novel by Elizabeth Ross was not the book that I was expecting to read when I opened it. I allowed myself to be misled by the synopsis and thought that I was getting a Cinderella/Ugly Duckling story. I am so glad that I was mistaken.

Maude Pichon was a girl who ran away from an arranged marriage in the north of France (yes, I had to cheat to see where Brittany actually was, geographically speaking) to the glitz, glamour, an...more
Lauren
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Christina (Confessions of a Book Addict)
Maude Pichon grew up in the country and leaves her old life behind for the glamour of magical Paris. She doesn't have any connections when she comes to Paris and has to fend for herself. She responds to an advertisement looking for work and when she arrives at The Durandeau Agency she has no idea what she is in for. This agency provides the upper class with an "ugly" girl to showcase how beautiful their client is by having the two be out socializing together. Once Maude figures out what exactly...more
Jen Ryland
Beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Belle Epoque was inspired by a short story by Émile Zola called Les Repoussoirs. In Zola's story, a salesman rents out unattractive girls to serve as companions for young society women on the marriage market, making their employers seem lovelier by comparison.

The story opens as Maude -- who has fled to Paris to escape an unappealing arranged marriage -- answers a newspaper ad and learns about the repoussoir concept. At first, she's insulted and horr...more
Celine
Set during the building process of the now world-famous Eiffel tower, Belle Epoque is a lovely historical young-adult novel about beauty and friendship.

After running away from home Maude Pichon can't find a job in Paris. The only agency that will hire her is one for ugly girls. They are rented to society ladies that will look even more beautiful next to their deformity.

I LOVED the repoussoir (to repel in French) business. As stated in the Author's Note in the final page of the book, Belle Epoqu...more
Christie
First sentence: "Perfect, just perfect," says the stout man.

Maude Pinchon has run away from home and an arranged marriage to make her way in the world in Paris. Looking for work, she answers an unusual ad looking for young girls for light labor. She leaps at the chance to not have to work as a laundress anymore, but the job is not all it seems. The Durandeau Agency provide beauty foils, ugly girls are hired to make their rich clients look better in comparison. Maude is hired by a countess as a...more
Rachel
I really enjoyed Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross. The story is set in Paris from 1888-1889. Maude Pichon ran away from her small village in Brittany, France. She came to Paris hoping to live the good life, but she quickly learns that life is not as easy as she hoped. Out of desperation she relies to an ad for ugly girls to hang with debutantes in order to make them look prettier. They are the foils that make the jewels stand out. Maude is assigned to Isabelle, but Isabelle does not know Maude's r...more
Nicki
I'll start this off by saying that Samantha and I recently had a conversation and we're not thrilled with the Morris books this year. Samantha commented that if these are the best, maybe they shouldn't be giving out the award this year. Joking aside, they probably should have just stopped at 4 books and not nominated this book for the category.

It was boring and the most predictable book I've ever read. "I hope I don't fall in love with a boy I'm not supposed to." Guess what happened? "I hope my...more
☆Kiran ☆
Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross was a very interesting novel. At first I though it was about the old tale of beauty and the beast but that is probably by the influence of Disney. (Oh Walt Disney) I really did enjoy this novel. At first glance it does look like a normal tale about a girl living in Paris. Acutally, this novel takes the top of my list because it's a lovely tale about how a girl must learn how to survive in the high class world of Paris. Maude must learn to live on her own or suffer...more
Janet
I've read so many books recently about the late 1800s and in Paris, but this one stands with all the others. like Painted Girls it's based, at least partially, on an article written by Emile Zola and is a fascinating look at both the aristocracy and the poor in Paris at a time of great change. wonderful characters, poetic turns of phrase, and fabulous setting suck you right in. Fantastique!!
SIMON Karine
Librement inspirée par la nouvelle d’Emile Zola, "Le Repoussoir", Belle époque est un roman original qui nous plonge dans le Paris historique de l’Exposition Universelle de 1889, qui a vu naître la célèbre Tour Eiffel.

Comme souvent dans la collection"R", la couverture de ce roman est splendide, et c’est vrai que ça donne tout de suite envie de découvrir ce livre.

L’histoire en elle-même est très intéressante, elle nous montre que déjà à cette époque, le côté superficiel existait, est surtout que...more
Nicole
I suppose this contains spoilers, I don't think I gave away anything big, or anything that you couldn't predict before it happened, but just so you know.

This was a very neat idea for a book, definitely something unheard of, renting out ugly women as foils to make the pretty women of 19th century Paris even more pretty. Plus, the cover is interesting too, and I got pulled in only to find that it was just an okay read.

The beginning was interesting enough, starting with a runaway sixteen-year old d...more
Sandra
Why oh why did I wait so long to read this book? I got it out of the library as soon as the had it available then renewed it twice, ran out of time and returned it. I immediately checked the book out again then renewed it twice and decided it was now or never - I read this book two days before it was due and as soon as I'm done typing up this review, I'm driving to the library to return it. Guys, GUYS - don't make the same mistake I made, I absolutely loved and adored this book and I'm mad at my...more
Ms. Yingling
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kylara Jensen
3.5 Stars

And the moral of the story is: Beauty isn't just about looks; it's what's on the inside too. Or, don't let other people dictate your lives or tell you that just because of your beauty or lack thereof you have to be a certain way. This book actually has a really beautiful message.

Ok this book has some really strong points and I actually truly recommend reading it. It's just ... something about reading it wasn't fun at times and it did have some weaknesses. Overall I really enjoyed it and...more
Mara
Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I love, love, love the pretty filigree border. However, not only is there a character impersonator on the front, it also gives the incorrect indication that this is a romance novel. And in fact, the romance is hardly part of the plot.

Characters: Maude Pichon is a girl with big, yet practical, dreams. It's hard to not like her and her wish to be more than what she is. A plain girl who struggles with being accepted for her intelligence or her looks, Maude is also a very eas...more
Yasmin M
I liked this book. I actually liked a book. It's been so long, I was almost disappointed in myself for not hating it.

It's so real and grounded; I don't instantly (or eventually) hate the heroine Maude, the supporting characters develop throughout and are actually discernible from one another and significant and the plot is rather catchy.

There were, of course, a lot of weak aspects in this book; the evil, mean-spirited, bitch face countess on which all hate and blame in the plot could be dumped,...more
Paola (A Novel Idea)
Originally posted at A Novel Idea

RATING: 4/5 Stars


There were several factors that made Belle Epoque unique for me — things that helped it stand out from the piles and piles of new YA releases this summer. I can’t help but appreciate the ways in which this book pleasantly surprised me. Set against a vividly realized late-1800′s Paris (during the eponymous “beautiful era”), Maud’s story calls to question the meaning of beauty, but also the power of friendship to bring people together despite the d...more
Carla
belle é·poque
n.
An era of artistic and cultural refinement in a society, especially in France at the beginning of the 20th century

A wonderful, beautiful story weaved in Paris 1888. The construction of the Eiffel Tower lends to the a tale of beauty, friendship, forgiveness, dreams, and art.
Maude Pichon has run away from home to escape her father marrying her off to the butcher. She wants life, she wants to experience the world - so from the seaside town in Brittany she goes to Paris. The dream an...more
Eliza Crewe
A solidly good read. I liked that the character was far from perfect, and makes a ton of stupid, petty mistakes. It made her more believable. I do wish, however, in a book about ugly girls, Ross had gone for it and made the MC actually ugly instead of just plain. It kind of undermined the awesomeness of the unique idea--a female MC who's ugly--by making her the prettiest of the ugly girls.

I also was not a huge fan of the romantic lead, Paul. While I enjoyed the fact that he was imperfect too (h...more
Michele
This, and other reviews can be found on Just a Lil' Lost

Maude runs away from home to escape a future that would not be her own. She makes her way to Paris and answers a job posting before realizing that the job was to be plain. An unusual agency hires out “ugly” females to their rich clientele with the idea that when the rich are next to someone bland, they would look more attractive. Maude soon realizes that her client has hired her for her daughter, who has no idea that she’s paid for. The two...more
Jana
Enthralling, imaginative, and quite touching, Belle Epoque is a novel about beauty, its worth, and what it takes to achieve it. Its message really resonated with me, being quite a sore subject for me (yes, I'm insecure) and, most probably, a lot of other girls too (let's be honest here: we're all just a touch insecure); the moral quite digestible and shown in a manner that doesn't come off as 'holier-than-thou' preaching. It's honest and to the point, which is definitely a plus.

Themes notwithsta...more
Deyon
If there were any more stars that I could rate this book on, I would. It was, without an equal, the most beautiful novel I have ever read. I will admit, when I read the title page I din't think I would like the book because I couldn't pronounce the name ;). What made me read it was the little bottom part, "A Novel of beauty and betrayal". I was expecting something...um modern, which in a way it was, seeing that the law of comparisons hasn't changed a bit. What I mean is that I didn't expect it t...more
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Elizabeth Ross grew up in Scotland where she studied French and Film Studies at the University of Glasgow. After graduation she worked in the film industry in Montreal for several years, becoming a film editor. That career path eventually led to Los Angeles where she now lives with her husband.

Her debut novel, BELLE EPOQUE, will be published in June, 2013 from Delacorte Press/Random House. She is...more
More about Elizabeth Ross...

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