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The Ladies' Paradise

(Les Rougon-Macquart #11)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  12,423 ratings  ·  870 reviews
The Ladies Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the rise of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family: it is emblematic of changes in consumer culture, and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century. This new translati ...more
Paperback, Oxford World’s Classics, 438 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press (first published 1883)
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Michaela No need to read more of Rougon - Macquart, there is not much connection apart from Mouret (one of the main characters) being related to the clan.

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Petra-X Off having adventures
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.

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 ...more
This novel tells of the fierce (but hopeless) struggle of small convenience stores against big brands. It was not part of the last literary season, but it is indeed a novel written at the end of the 19th century.
And that calls out, necessarily. Because the modern reader will not be disorienting by the themes approached: the small shops which see with bitterness their most loyal customers leaving them for uniform goods and without art, the terrible pressure on prices, or even the exploitation of
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it
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
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. ...more
E. G.
Translator's Note
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Émile Zola

--The Ladies' Paradise

Explanatory Notes
Oct 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 05, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: fans of French lit
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,
Alice Poon
Jun 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: french-authored

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
Apr 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
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
Feb 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely lush. Gorgeous.
Feb 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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 *****
snackywombat (v.m.)
May 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Classics fans
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 ...more
Greg Brozeit
Dec 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: zola
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
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, zola
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.
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
I think I probably like this novel best of all the Zola novels we have read.

(view spoiler)
Feb 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of Zola’s best.
Imran  Ahmed
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Jul 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
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, ...more
Jul 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: borrowed
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
Sep 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
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 ...more
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 ...more
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Émile François Zola was an influential French novelist, the most important example of the literary school of naturalism, and a major figure in the political liberalization of France.

More than half of Zola's novels were part of a set of 20 books collectively known as Les Rougon-Macquart. Unlike Balzac who in the midst of his literary career resynthesized his work into La Comédie Humaine, Zola from

Other books in the series

Les Rougon-Macquart (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • The Fortune of the Rougons
  • La Curée
  • The Belly of Paris
  • La Conquête de Plassans (Les Rougon-Macquart, #4)
  • La Faute de l'abbé Mouret (Les Rougon-Macquart, #5)
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (Les Rougon-Macquart, #6)
  • L'Assommoir
  • Une Page d'amour
  • Nana
  • Pot Luck

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