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The Ladies' Paradise (Au Bonheur Des Dames) [Hardcover]

Zola
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 1992 Au Bonheur Des Dames
Zola's prophetic celebration of unbridled commerce and consumerism, "The Ladies' Paradise" ("Au bonheur des dames, " 1883) recounts the frenzied transformations that made late nineteenth-century Paris the fashion capital of the world. The novel's capitalist hero, Octave Mouret, creates a giant department store that devours the dusty, outmoded boutiques surrounding it. Paralleling the story of commercial triumph is the love story between Mouret and the innocent Denise Baudu, who comes to work in The Ladies' Paradise. She provides the crucial link between Mouret and the three essential social groups in the novel: the female clientele, the shopgirls, and the petit bourgeois shopkeepers of the neighborhood. But the store itself plays the leading role. Zola celebrates capitalism, commerce, and consumerism with a kind of prophetic optimism, calling this novel "a poem of modern activity." The work's interest for readers in feminist, cultural, and social history and theory is made abundantly clear in the introduction by Kristin Ross, and the fiction is reproduced in its colorful, 1886 English translation.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 383 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (1 July 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520073495
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520073494
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,756,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Emile Zola is the ever-popular author of "Nana, Germinal," and many other novels. "The Ladies' Paradise" is the eleventh book in his Rougon-Macquart series, the "Natural and Social History of a Family under the Second Empire." Kristin Ross is Associate Professor of French Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"The Ladies Paradise" or "Au Bonheur des Dames" is the continuation of Zola's Rougon-Macquart series. The series' purpose, according to Zola, is to study how environment effects the character of one family line. Three "environments" have appeared in Zola's work: the first is the idyllic countryside, the second is the harsh countryside, and the third is Paris--the city. "Au Bonheur des Dames" is situated in the third of the "environments", Paris.

From his previous works, Paris is already known for its potential as a corruptionist of morality and goodness. Thus, the heroine already is facing an insurmountable task of remaining adverse to Paris' degradation of moral values. She is the ultimate martyr: her sacrifices to her younger brothers seem endless. She scrapes money together to have the youngest in a boarding house for children, and always manage to find money (even in desperate times)to give to the other spendthrift brother. All of these sacrifices she did out of love.

With such heart and of such noble spirit, she enters Paris. She is struck by the first sight she sees in Paris. A gigantic structure has swallowed an entire block of old and fading smaller stores. She is astounded, awed, and fascinated by it. Her loyalty is divided between her Uncle's small clothier and her fascination and desire to work in the store.

"Au Bonheur des Dames" has two stories: (1) the spread of the popularity of department stores and the death of smaller family owned stores in "modern" Paris, and (2) the noble heroine. Will the heroine be crushed by Paris and swallowed up by the department store? Will her nobler spirit defeat all the odds that have been predestined to be against her?
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What Do Women Want? 21 July 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Ostensibly a book about the growth of the sumptuous department stores in Paris, "Au Bonheur des Dames" is also an insightful, and astonishingly prescient essay on the role of women in modern society and the degree to which they are turned into the commodities they are enticed into coveting.

Zola's scientific gaze is sharp and mercilous; and even though the book is a much "happier" look at Paris in the Third Republic than most of the other Rougon-Macquart novels, it is nonetheless a sobering, sophisticated dissection of nineteenth-century capitalism at its most rapacious and seductive.

This is a book that could easily fit on reading lists in Womens Studies, Economic History, or Modern Literature.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very enjoyable 19 May 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Read this after watching the tv series. Books always offer more than the telly and this was no exception. Rich in detail with a cast of interesting characters. Great portrayal of Paris at that time and just how hard life could be.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Weird format with OCR content and mistakes 4 Jun 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is the size of a textbook - large and slim.

The text is formatted like a newspaper - three columns to a page.

There is a note from the publisher on page 1 of the book explaining that the text was scanned from an old copy and corrected with automated spellcheck so typos and mistakes should be expected. I found numerous mistakes in the first paragraph.

Suddenly three pounds something looks very expensive. I am clicking for a refund
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4.0 out of 5 stars Old fashioned writing 24 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
having seen the TV programme...thought i would try the book, which of course is set in Paris...and given it was written 125 years ago...the language is of course quite "old-fashioned"...but a good yarn anyway!
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