The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

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Buddy Reads Archives > The Ladies Paradise - Ch 13-14 & final thoughts

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message 1: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Please enter any comments on these chapters or the book as a whole.


message 2: by Brian (last edited Sep 15, 2019 07:09PM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments In the last discussion, Phrod said "Mouret was introduced as the center of the last book. Much as Denise is in this one. I wonder if we get to see her in later book?"

To avoid spoilers, I didn't answer at the time, but what happens to Mouret and Denise is briefly mentioned in the final Rougon-Macquart book, Doctor Pascal, for those curious to know.
I did not know that Mouret was the 'family' character whose backstory and start at the Ladies Paradise is told in Pot-Bouille. Now that I know, I'm more curious about him.


message 3: by Brian (last edited Sep 16, 2019 08:28PM) (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments I spent the last part of this novel, rooting for Denise to resist Mouret and stick to her guns and leave the Paradise. I thought she should stay true to her principles and decision. Then when Denise said she loved Mouret and fell into his arms and Mouret stated a quick plan for the future, I felt relieved and extremely satisfied with the result. This typical happy ending is the proper ending. Well, maybe not, but it is the ending that I subliminally wanted and it satisfies me.
I thought I preferred the ‘we can’t be together’ ending that works for many books and films, but when they worked its because of practical factors, like existing marriages, that make the frustrated lovers ending appropriate. Here, despite Denise’s concerns, there is no real reason for them not to marry, even if we don't understand why she loves him.

An excellent novel. A minor detail preventing my full enjoyment is that I never fully differentiated the various woman shoppers into identifiable characters.


message 4: by Phrodrick (last edited Sep 16, 2019 07:03PM) (new)

Phrodrick An excellent novel. A minor detail preventing my full enjoyment.is that I never fully differentiated the various woman shoppers into identifiable characters.

Perhaps more of an insight<?>
Mostly I think they are meant to be types rather than individuals.
The compulsive shopper the rude shopper, the buy if its discounted shopper and so forth.
Perhaps they are individual if we take them to have existence beyond the page. Or they are so much grist for the machine and individual mannerism matter only in so far as there exists a selling strategy that overcomes resistance.

We are the Store (rhymes with Borg)
Resistance is useless!


message 5: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments Phrodrick wrote: " I think they ere meant to be types rather than individuals.The compulsive shopper the rude shopper, the buy if its discounted shopper and so forth."

My problem was fairly simple. Having the title Madame or Mademoiselle before each name made them similar so I couldn't keep track of each one's comments to actually determine which character was rude, which one compulsive etc.. This prevented me from being fully amused when they exhibited a certain behavior - like the shoplifting at the end, which I did enjoy anyway.


message 6: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Sep 16, 2019 04:53PM) (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I can't buy that Mouret would accept the situation of having Denise work in the store, promoting her, consulting with her on business, letting her add all kinds of benefits for the workers, and yet still refusing his advances. Someone weaker, like Deloche, I could believe it of. But this is sort of like if Harvey Weinstein fell in love with an actress and said, "It's fine if you don't reciprocate my feelings, or sleep with me. I'll make you my assistant and let you decide all about the films. And meanwhile I'll give up all other women." Mouret is a man of great pride and, from his past life, considerable lust. For a realist, Zola takes an incredibly romantic view of his hero.

It also seemed that the workers' amenities got set up awfully quick. It's true the story was making tons of money, but that doesn't mean the owners want to share that with their workers (just like Amazon today.)


message 7: by Phrodrick (last edited Sep 16, 2019 07:20PM) (new)

Phrodrick It also seemed that the workers' amenities got set up awfully quick. It's true the story was making tons of money, but that doesn't mean the owners want to share that with their workers

So it was not just me.
My guess is that a. Zola saw the stores making some of these adjustments and had to toss them in last minute. Or they were so much wishful thinking.

Since we have told the ending,
I kinda got tired of the wedding, virginal white spewed all over the place and the nattering about Denise. It just got to be too much.
Perhaps a matter of the relative amount of patience in an 1880 audience and a 2019 one.

I can believe that Denise made not just a humanitarian case but a business case and so won the day with more than the hope for sex in exchange for pro-labor policy.

The reason why I wonder about them 5 years from now because I do not believe the two are living HEA. He is , in my mind sleeping around and ignoring her and the kids. He rats around with the older brother who might have other wise turned into a decent hard working husband and father. The younger brother turns into a spoiled brat, jealous of his sister's kids.

It is possible that younger brother turns out OK, Ill give him a 50/50 chance. But my bet is that Densie will have lots of tears yet to cry .
Of the four Zola novels I have read, this is my favorite. It has the problems we all seem to see, but I enjoyed reading it.

You guys made me think harder, do some additional research and generally
Thank ya'll.

Special thanks to Robin for the heavy lifting in opening the thread and keeping this organized.

I hope there are more comments, but just in case this is my appreciation .


message 8: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Thanks to you, Phodrick, for initiating this. I also liked this better than most of the Zola novels I had read before. i am tempted to read Pot Luck, which is the book before this one that introduces Mouret, but I'm afraid it will make him a sympathetic character and I don't see him that way!


message 9: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments I am tempted to read Pot Luck BECAUSE it may make Mouret more sympathetic. Actually, that's not quite true, I just think now I missed a part of the novel buy not having all the knowledge of Mouret's personality that readers of Pot Luck had. I often wished to have more insight into Mouret's motivations,
However, I appreciate your honest assessment, Robin. I totally understand that you've read the book and am satisfied with your feelings toward the characters and resolutions. Why read something that may alter a feeling you just spent about 15 hours over 2 weeks of reading to develop? In fact, the longer I've thought about it the more I think I might leave well enough alone.


message 10: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments Robin and Phrod, what other Zola's have you read and which did you prefer? I just have this one and Germinal and, though I gave both 4 stars, preferred this one.


message 11: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Sep 17, 2019 01:44PM) (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I was partly kidding about Mouret. I wouldn't really mind reading Pot Luck. MANY years ago as an undergrad French major, I did an independent study on Zola. I think the professor suggested it for some reason, as it was a small college and the only regularly-scheduled French lit course I had already taken. I know I read Germinal, La Bete Humaine (not sure what it's called in English, it's about trains) Le Ventre de Paris (about Les Halles, the food market) L'assomoir (about drinking I believe) La Terre (about peasants - what I remember is that the peasant took better care of his cow than his wife as it was more valuable and less replaceable), and I think a couple more that I've forgotten.

Also in this Readers Review group we started by reading the 1st 2 or 3 of the series, I think it's The Fortune of the Rougons and His Excellency Eugene Rougon and at some point in this group we read one called Money. Those were more about society and politics rather than social issues. I believe the Rougon family is the well-off one and the Macquart family is the one with the working-class and poor people.

I liked the more feminine world of this novel and also that Denise gets to succeed without sacrificing her virtue. Her intelligence and sympathy get to win out (even though I find it hard to believe.) A lot of Zola is much grimmer, in tune with the times and settings he writes about.

If anyone is going to read one Zola novel, I recommend Germinal. I think I also read Nana at a different time, but I can't remember a thing about it!


message 12: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 124 comments I “accidentally” came across this on the internet when I looked up the word “phalansterian“ from chapter 10.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charl...

Very interesting article about the French philosopher Fourier circa 1820s. Zola wrote Ladies Paradise in 1880s. Looks like he was influenced by Fourier’s ideas.


message 13: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick Two different long times ago I read Germinal and Nana. I remember nothing about them
an editorial in itself.
I read Pot Luck a few months back as part of a group read. That helped me a lot
and spoiler or not
Mouret is a snake , much worse than in The Ladies.

Of course I read Ja accuse

so far I most like The Ladies.
I am in no hurry to read more Zola, but given the right buddie read, and the right timing I just might.


message 14: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments Thanks Phrod and Robin. I am not in a hurry for more Zola either - one evrey few years is sufficient - but I do like to plan ahead for the books I want to read.

I read Germinal, and based on Rosemarie and other Goodreads ratings and general comments, I decided on a preference order of: L'Assommoir, La Bette Humaine, L'Oevre and Ladies Paradise. I omitted Nana and Therese Raquin, though they were the 2nd and 3rd most read. But the Ladies Paradise came up first and worked out well. I'm open to change based on reviews, like Pot Luck, I don't mind the grimness but a balance would be nice. Sometimes its hard to tell what will be less grim. .

FYI, by number of Goodreads ratings, the order is Germinal, Nana, Therese Raquin, L'Assommoir, La Bette Humaine, the Ladies Paradise. The Fortune of the RM, Le Curee, The Belly of Paris and L-Oevre as the top 10 most read Zolas.


message 15: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I forgot that Therese Raquin was by Zola, I read that with this group also a few years back. I think The Fortune of the RM & La Curee are the 1st 2 in recommended order of the series, and probably many people get tired of them after that. I think that is where this group stopped in our intentions. Also the excellent moderator we had back then (Zulfiya, if anyone remembers her) dropped out of that role and I think of the group and no one else took on the project. I wasn't a moderator yet at that time, but I also wasn't thrilled with the early books of the series.


message 16: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments I do think I will look for Zola's that are translated by Brian Nelson. I can't comment on his accuracy, but his translation here may be, at least partially, responsible for why the book seemed smoother than my Germinal did.


message 17: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 124 comments I struggled to finish the final two chapters. I agree with Robin, that for a realist novel, I just can’t buy into the romantic vision of Mouret as hero. For me, that also extends to Zola’s depiction of Denise.
I’m going to have to give this novel a disappointing 2 stars. The details of The Ladies Paradise as the beginning of the modern shopping experience were interesting. But after a certain point, I just couldn’t bring myself to care much what happened to the characters.


message 18: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick Jenny wrote: "I struggled to finish the final two chapters. I agree with Robin, that for a realist novel, I just can’t buy into the romantic vision of Mouret as hero. For me, that also extends to Zola’s depictio..."

Gotta admire your tell it like it is conclusion. I am not sure that Mouret is a romantic hero. His redemption, if there realy is one, rings tin in my ear.


message 19: by Rafael (new)

Rafael da Silva (morfindel) | 270 comments Brian wrote: "I spent the last part of this novel, rooting for Denise to resist Mouret and stick to her guns and leave the Paradise. I thought she should stay true to her principles and decision. Then when Denis..."

This reading was an interesting one. I am happy that I read it with you all, although I am not sure how much i liked it. I guess Brian's comment echoes my opinion.


message 20: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Sep 21, 2019 11:15PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 2770 comments Mod
I loved L'Assomoir, sad but beautiful, but think Nanais not as good as his other books at all.
After reading the series over the course of many years, I got a grasp of the breadth of Zola's undertaking.
I found this book, in French Au bonheur des dames, to be one of Zola's lighter works, since some are really grim.
That being said, another favourite is also very grim, La Débâcle, which deals with the disaster of the Franco-Prussian war.


message 21: by Phrodrick (new)

Phrodrick "That being said, another favourite is also very grim, La Débâcle, which deals with the disaster of the Franco-Prussian war. "

Kinda looks like a French War and Peace.
It may not have been your intention, but this is now on my Want to Read list. Maybe someday we can get a buddy read for it.


message 22: by Brian (new)

Brian Reynolds | 685 comments Thanks for your input, Rosemarie, but I want more. Besides LP. what do you consider other ones of Zola's lighter works and how do you rate them? Which did you prefer between L-Oevre and La Bete Humaine? Finally, your top 5 of the RM series?


message 23: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
I had not totally finished the book till just now. The ending is very abrupt, and I can't really understand why Denise all of a sudden gives in when she never did before. Or why she held out so long.


message 24: by Rosemarie, Moderator (last edited Sep 22, 2019 04:15PM) (new)

Rosemarie | 2770 comments Mod
I studied Germinal and L'Œuvre for a 19th century French lit course that I really enjoyed, so I can't really compare my reaction to those I read on my own.
Here are some that stand out, and each is very different:

Le Ventre de Paris - the description of the market, Les Halles, is extremely vivid, with a wide cast of characters

La Faute de l'abbé Mouret - lyrical dreamy writing at times

Le Rêve - a story about a mysterious orphan

La Terre - very earthy and gritty

La Bête humaine - dramatic

The worst book of the whole series is the last one, Le Docteur Pascal. It was a real disappointment.

If you like books about political or financial matters, there are the books Son Excellence Eugène Rougon and L'Argent.


message 25: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 124 comments Again I agree with Robin. I was confused by Zola’s choice to end the book with Denise’s capitulation. I thought the real point was going to be how Denise alters or does not alter Mouret’s plans. She seemed to have some influence on his business decisions as long as she was withholding sex. So I thought her role might be a softening influence. But at the very end when Bouthmont tries to take advantage of Mouret’s “weakness,” Mouret rages that he will be as all powerful as ever.

I also agree with Phodrick’s pessimistic view of this marriage. I don’t see how it could go at all well. On top of Mouret’s love ‘em and leave ‘em mentality, there isn’t one example of a happy marriage in the entire novel. Marriage, like the work place, seems to be a sexual or financial power struggle. Not a happy view of human relationships.


message 26: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2032 comments Mod
Zola is quite explicit at the end of the "white sale" day on how the women are satisfied and exhausted as they would be after a night of lovemaking. And Mouret sees his store as a way of dominating and owning all women. It's all a bit perverted. Denise is much more practical. She doesn't seem to have any ego, except for her principle of not succumbing to Mouret. And yet she enabled her brother's pursuit of women for years.


message 27: by Jenny (new)

Jenny | 124 comments I really find a possible connection between this novel and the philosophy of Charles Fourier quite interesting.

Fourier was a proponent of “utopian socialism” and advocated the structuring of society into phalanxes or “phalansteries” based on what workers did for a living. He advocated cooperation and concern and thought trade was the source of all evil.

He is credited with coining the term “feminism” and thought traditional marriage probably held women back from attaining their rights.

So far, it seems the exact opposite of Zola’s portrayal of the Ladies Paradise.

On the other hand, Fourier sexualized all work. He was very liberal in his ideas of sexuality, finding homosexuality and informal sexual unions acceptable. In a concept I’m not certain I understand, labor became a sort of sexual fulfillment.

So this bring a new aspect to the text, a sort of interaction between Zola and Fourier’s philosophy where Zola chooses which concepts to accept or reject. Clearly, Zola seems to see human relations as essentially competitive instead of cooperative but labor and sex are very much linked in this novel.


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