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The Ladies' Paradise

(Les Rougon-Macquart #11)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  10,519 ratings  ·  738 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 ...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.…moreNo 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. (less)

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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.

Luís C.
Au Bonheur des Dames is a perfect example of the novel that we should not give to read to people who are not yet ready for that. Including those that have not the maturity or experience of reading necessary to face such a literary monument.
There are books which cannot be enjoyed with age, time or fullness.
I was fifteen the first few times the school area asked me to begin this big classic from Zola. At that time, I could not go beyond the first two pages ...
The eleventh volume of the
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 ...more
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
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.
Translator's Note
Select Bibliography
A Chronology of Émile Zola

--The Ladies' Paradise

Explanatory Notes
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
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
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,
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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sep 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Classic serial Radio 4 listeners
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aleida Oskam
Finally! I finished it! I wanted to read this book because I was obsessed with the tv-series but this book was nothing like it except the names where partly simiral to those in the series. The chapters where way to long in my opion which held my readingspeed back. I'm glad I read this as a buddyread so I had to stick to the readingschedule for myself else I think it certainly would have taken me longer to finish it. Until 3/4 of the book the story was quiet alright until one event happend that I ...more
Gwen Cooper
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A total Cinderella story set against the backdrop of shopping (!!!) in Paris (!!!)--maybe I'm the girliest girl who ever girled, but I absolutely loved this book. In addition to the romance plot and gorgeous descriptions of 19th Century silks and satins, this was also a fascinating look back at the world's very first department store and the origins of many of the commercial conventions (sales commissions, markdowns, gifts-with-purchase) that we take for granted today. A great summer read!
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
Katy Noyes
Nov 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zola is a name that's been on my 'must read one day, but he sounds hard' list for many a year. Why is it we fear the unfamiliar? Just as Scandinavian authors are experiencing a huge surge in popularity, other European names deserve to have their names highlighted too.

This is a gem. Like many, I enjoyed the BBC costume drama inspired by this book (The Paradise, now on series two). So finally, I plunged in. And what did I find? An eminently readable story, full of fascinating social history,
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 ...more
Mar 16, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 STARS So, who am I to give Emile Zola only 3 (3.5) stars? Well, look, he's a great writer but I can only read so many scenes about what the store looked like during the [fill in the blank] sale. I found the subject of this book--the birth of the department store and the concomitant birth of "shopping" as an activity--to be very interesting. The foreword to Ladies' Paradise was, for me, essential reading in terms of appreciating the novel. I had no idea that the modern department store was ...more
Very strong beginning but it started to feel a little bit confusing and repetitive by the middle and the end. Loved the theme and how modern it looked, but the character development felt a little bit short for me. Either way, its naturalism and realism vibe is worth enough to pick it up.
Eve Kay
Jun 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
(Repeat to the tune of Cocteau Twins' Alice)
Oh Denise, what a lovely young girl you are. What wondrous things you will achieve in the future, what a wonderful woman you'll turn into.
Zola painted you like a portait and it'll "hang on the wall of my heart" for years.

Poetic, eh?

What else besides Denise? Weeeeeell:

I know what Zola was doing in the beginning. He wasn't only setting the scene and introducing all the characters, which he always does, he was dragging us in to
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All About Books: The Ladies' Paradise by Émile Zola (Jenny, Laura and Gill) 23 39 Jan 16, 2015 04:26PM  

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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 21 books)
  • The Fortune of the Rougons
  • La Curée
  • The Belly of Paris
  • La Conquête de Plassans
  • La Faute de l'abbé Mouret
  • Son Excellence Eugène Rougon
  • L'Assommoir
  • Une Page d'amour
  • Nana
  • Pot Luck
“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.” 1107 likes
“Crever pour crever, je préfère crever de passion que de crever d'ennui !” 23 likes
More quotes…