Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Belle Epoque” as Want to Read:
Belle Epoque
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Belle Epoque

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  3,379 ratings  ·  626 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
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published June 11th 2013 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.61  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,379 ratings  ·  626 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Belle Epoque
Khanh, first of her name, mother of bunnies
"'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 refe
Sarah Mac
Mere words can't explain how awful this was, so I've selected some visual aids to fully convey the Belle Epoque experience.

First, the heroine:

...Because she spends the entire time whinging, judging, moping, & moo'ing. Apparently this is supposed to make her a relatable narrator and/or a keen observer held down by circumstance. I say it makes her annoying or a bitch who needs to STFU, but what do I know? *shrug*

Now, the hero:

...Because he spends the entire time being drunk, planning to get drunk,
Amanda Sun
Nov 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Cora Tea Party Princess
5 Words: Beauty, poverty, aristocracy, Paris, friendship.

I absolutely could not put this down. I loved it.

Belle Époque was a charming and challenging read. As much as I loved reading about the lavish styles and how opulent everything was, the dark undercurrent of Durandeau's agency was constantly there in the background, a stark comparison.

This was excellently written and I could easily picture myself wandering the streets, attending a ball or working in a dark room. This book is lavish and indu
"I smile back, noting that her putrid, mustard-colored dress is worse than mine. I stand beside her. Maybe by comparison I look less terrible.

It's fine if you have flaws-I prefer my heroines to have them because I dislike speshul Mary-Sue. Maude isn't the kind of heroine with flaws I like.

The book is about a special job for unattractive women who follow around pretty nobles in order to enhance their beauty.

I get it. This is an ugly, uncomfortable topic. And considering how much appearances play
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
usagi ☆ミ
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
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult
YA Historical novel based on the short story "Les Repoussoirs" by Emile Zola ( link to story: ).

The Durandeau Agency is the place where rich society women of Paris can hire a plain or ugly woman to act as their friend in social situations. This is so that, by comparison, the rich woman looks even lovelier to rich men who are potential husbands. Plain penniless Maude, desperate for a job, sees Durandeau's ad in the paper and applies for a position with th
Jun 08, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Lilliam Rivera
Oct 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
I liked the premise of Belle Epoch. An agency that rents out ugly girls to be companions for society debs. Foils to make a gal look prettier in comparison. Runaway Maude is finding it harder to make a living in France than she expected. She takes a position at the agency out of desperation and it humiliates her.

I enjoyed all the female friendships and Isabelle's determination to attend the Sorbonne instead of marrying. Maude was selfish and ambitious, not caring about anyone else's feelings. Pe
Wendy Darling
2.5 stars Fascinating topic, but this is a story that could have used a great deal more liveliness, emotional depth, and resonance.
3.5 stars

What a strange, lovely novel Belle Epoque turned out to be. Not a particularly fun or entertaining novel, definitely not as profound as it could've been, but still, thoughtful and original in a sense that YA rarely is. Instead of focusing on the romance or getting lost in the beauty of the times, instead of using the story to bring another tiring, perfect main character who does nothing wrong, the author didn't shy away from giving us a flawed and average main character in a strange, em
Kayla Beck Kalnasy
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, glamo
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
Nov 07, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: goodreads
Maude runs away from her father's house and shop in Brittany after overhearing his plans for her marriage at 16 to the local butcher. After she arrives in Paris, Maude realizes that her stolen funds would not last very long and she would need to find work to survive. She stumbles across an ad for a position that she does not fully understand, but gets the job anyway. Once she is employed by the agency, she is repulsed by the girls and their acceptance of their positions. She is lucky, in some re ...more
When Maude leaves her home in the countryside of France, she heads to Paris. The only work she is able to find is to work as a “repoussoir”, or as a sort of “foil” to a pretty girl. That is, Maude is the ugly or plain girl who is hired to accompany a debutante to one or more events in order to make the debutante look better by comparison. Maude is hired by the Isabelle’s mother, but Isabelle doesn’t know that that’s why Maude is there. They become friends and Maude wants to help Isabelle in the ...more
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
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Arianna M
Oct 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I wasn't a fan of historical fiction before, but this book changed that. Even though it's set in Paris in 1888-1889, I found that many of the topics were very relevant today:
1) How a person's beauty is often compared and rated against others instead of individually seen and accepted
2) How strong women are negatively perceived by some
3) How too much of a good thing isn't a good thing
4) How easy it is for your personal perception to be affected by others' perception of you
5) How you can exceed ex
Dec 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
colleen the convivial curmudgeon
After running away from a provincial town where she was to be married off to an older and potentially abusive husband, Maude comes to Paris to follow her dreams - and the dreams of her departed mother. But she finds life harder than expected, and so answers an add looking for women for easy work - not realizing there's a word missing. "Ugly". But Maude doesn't consider herself ugly, not like the *others*, so runs off... only to later return when life continues to be hard.

And so Maude gets hired
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
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
Jul 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2013
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
Initially my reaction was much the same as Maude's when she learns the true nature of the Durandeau Agency. He rents society ladies repoussers. These women were to serve to highlight the beauty of the "ladies" they were with through their own plainness, ugliness, or various other "less desirable" traits.

Just reading about these so-called "ladies" and M. Durandeau speak about the women in his employ... *shudders* It felt like a physical blow, and that was how it felt to Maude. You watch her not o
Jul 09, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: stand-alone
2.8 stars.

This book lacked a couple of things for me. First of all: it lacked an interesting main character. Maude is such a flat and plain character, she has these boring inner monologues and falls in love with multiple guys without really knowing them. At the end of the book we are supposed to believe that she is in love and has a passion for a certain hobby but I did not feel or see it at all.
Another thing that I found lacking was charm. This book is taking place around 1890 in Paris, so you
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Play Book Tag: Belle Epoque / Elizabeth Ross. 4 stars 1 12 Jul 28, 2018 02:20PM  
Sinopsis en Español 1 3 Nov 24, 2014 06:52AM  
Young Adult Histo...: Belle Epoque- September 2013 2 30 Jul 30, 2014 06:40AM  
Translation to Spanish, why not? 1 2 Jul 07, 2014 06:01PM  
Shut Up & Read: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross 2 15 Jan 08, 2014 01:44AM  
The Young Adult H...: Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross - September's Read 6 29 Oct 26, 2013 10:10PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Chère Mamie
  • Tant pis pour l'amour. Ou comment j'ai survécu à un manipulateur
  • Aya de Yopougon, Tome 6 (Aya, #6)
  • Aya de Yopougon, Tome 5 (Aya, #5)
  • The Pilgrims of Rayne (Pendragon, #8)
  • The Silver Blade (French Revolution, #2)
  • Voyage au centre de la Terre
  • The Red Necklace (French Revolution, #1)
  • La fille dans l'écran
  • The Quillan Games (Pendragon, #7)
  • The Rivers of Zadaa (Pendragon, #6)
  • Black Water (Pendragon, #5)
  • Toujours plus
  • The Chaos Curse (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #3)
  • Le clan des aigles (La légende des quatre #4)
  • Ces jours qui disparaissent
  • Lettre à Ménécée
  • Les Résistants (Interfeel, #2)
See similar books…
Elizabeth Ross's debut novel BELLE EPOQUE (Delacorte Press/Random House) was a finalist for the American Library Association's Morris Debut Award and the California Book Award. Her second novel, THE SILVER BLONDE is out July 2021. Visit her at ...more

Related Articles

Of Women and Salt, the debut novel by Gabriela Garcia, has the feel of a sweeping family saga that’s hard to reconcile with the fact that it’s...
2 likes · 0 comments
No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »
“In taking that photograph, I understood something I will never forget: how I wished to arrest all the beauty that came before me. Not the classical beauty of symmetry and exact proportions or the fancy of fashion, which is ever-changing with the seasons, but the beauty of a soul, that inner life that reveals itself so seldom, just for an instant, and only if you look closely and learn to see with an open heart.” 4 likes
“I’ve started to question if the flaws on the finished photograph aren’t an integral part of the portrait: soft focus, underexposure, poorly applied emulsion, mysterious lines and distortions … all of these elements can change the character of the photograph and its subject.” 3 likes
More quotes…