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4.3 out of 5 stars104
4.3 out of 5 stars
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If you are currently watching The Paradise [DVD] on tv (which so far two episodes have been shown) you will have seen that the story was adapted from Zola's great novel. I should point out that it is a bit misleading, and it would have been much better to say inspired by the book. Anyway, you have been warned, the period drama is to a certain extent fluffy and a bit glamorous, however the real story as presented here, Au Bonheur des Dames, isn't like that. Even if you can't stand the period drama, you may find that you are going to love this story.

For me I think this is now the third copy of this story that I have owned; I started my working life in an old building, that was a department store, you still had the tiny rooms in the attics where the female staff resided years beforehand, whereas the junior men slept under counters on the shop floor. With that background it was inevitable that I would lap this book up. Also I should point out that this is the eleventh novel in the 'Rougon-Macquart Cycle' being the sequel to Pot Luck (Pot-Bouille) (Oxford World's Classics), but this is a fully enclosed novel, so don't worry if you have never read any of the other books, or even if this is the first Zola novel that you have ever read.

The actual story works in two ways as such, you have the owner of The Ladies' Paradise, Octave Mouret who is a great womanizer and even preys on his female staff becoming smitten with Denise Baudu, one of his staff. Denise has come to Paris hoping to stay with her uncle as she has her two younger brothers to try and support. That in itself would have been a good story, but Zola went much further. Studying his subject exhaustively and being inspired by the Bon Marche for his store this book shows how the department store arose, and the tactics to induce you to visit, which you will soon realise are quite commonly used to this day.

Starting as a small drapers shop we see how The Ladies' Paradise expands, offering more and more departments and items as it does so, undercutting all the local shops, thus putting them out of business. With a look at Denise's uncle and other shop owners we can really get a feel for how they suffer. Describing and thus letting us in on the use of advertising, the ways of selling cheap (including loss leaders), as well as the planning of the store, we also see how a model was devised that with slight alterations to this day are still being used, thus in an era where we have seen massive growth in supermarkets this is still relevant. Seeing how the shop works and the conditions for the staff this tale really comes alive. In an era when commercialism was just starting this shows us how it grew, and still grows. As always with Zola this book gives you a story that you can sink your teeth into and that keeps you reading spellbound as you are taken back to the days he describes.
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on 8 November 2012
The television series made me curious to read the original story of The Ladies Paradise. If you have ever been an impulse buyer or a shopaholic, then you should read this book. It so clearly describes the business of selling! Emile Zola writes vividly of the beauty and glamour of the store and the consequent demise of the independent retailers. Swamped by the advantages The ladies Paradise can offer to the customer, using high turnover and low prices as a means to gain enormous profits overall, they cannot compete. All this is told through the captivating love story that develops between the extraordinary shop assistant Denise and Mouret, the owner of The ladies Paradise.
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on 12 November 2012
I have always enjoyed reading Emile Zola's novels. The new BBC series Paradise, which I have been enjoying watching, reminded to read Zola's novels again. It is an curious look into lives of newly created middle classes that being born by the industrial revolution and birth of retail marketing.
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on 17 December 2012
I was inspired to purchase this book after watching the BBC series based on this novel. I'm so glad I did because the book is sooo much more interesting!

TIP: Do Not read the introduction - keys points in the plot and the ending are given away. The development of the story is spoiled, which is important since it is so different from the television series if that is what you're basing your purchase on. And if it isn't, then it really is annoying.

Fortunately, the history of how department stores were developed (key in this story) is so fascinating, I couldn't put the book down. The background research done by the author is deep and well sourced. Even though this book was written in 1883, much of what is written seems to apply to current society. You will discover that there is very little new in sales techniques, marketing and promotion!

Bottom line = classic books are classic for a reason! Very well written, truly gripping.
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on 9 November 2012
Bought this as I love the TV.
It is different to the TV but I have read it several times.
It has different characters and quickly Moray likes Denise and has no Katherine in it.
I would recommend it to anyone!
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on 2 August 2013
I realy pity all people who criticize this book and I would like to ask them: What was before, a novel or a TV series? Who adapted who? People who prefer sugar coated Tv emissions to reading good book quit after few chapters. Of course, you should be concentrated and not party somewhere else. I do not understand Mrs. Kate who complained about too many French names. Does she read only boks of English origin? What about me, who is neither English nor French and have to read English version as I do not have a translation in my language? How many foreign names do I meet when I read French, English, German... novels! I do not want to humiliate anyone, but such criticism simply raised my pressure.

My regards to all Zola admirers!
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on 31 December 2013
I bought this book after watching the first series of the BBC's "The Paradise." I then read a review on here saying it was quite different from the TV series and not much of a romance so I didn't bother to read it for the first year I had it.

I recently decided to give it a try and I'm so glad I did. It is quite different from the TV series but there are key similarities so I think fans of the series would like this book as well as those who haven't seen the TV adaptation.

It focuses on Denise and Mouret and the working of the store and the impact the site has on local businesses. It has a great balance of romance and human interest and commerce and business. This is the kind of book I could badger my husband into reading and at the end he would probably say it was quite interesting because he learnt about the rise of the department store and Parisian life.

It's a great book and one I will definitely read again. The good thing about being different from the TV series is that it is similar enough to immediately grab your attention but different enough to keep you interested and be full of suspense and surprises. Love it!
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on 10 March 2013
An excellent novel as expected from an internationally renowned author. The depiction of the shopping experience in the 19th century is superb, the characterisation and storylines riveting. I was very sorry when I reached the end of the book.
The story is different to the TV dramatisation but is as enjoyable and allows the reader to explore the characters in greater depth.
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on 2 December 2012
I bought the book after watching the adaptation on the BBC, and I wanted to see how close the story was to the book, and with the main difference being the book is set in France and not England i found the book just as gripping and couldn't put it down.
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on 21 November 2012
Its slightly different to the tv adapted The Ladies Paradise and it helps to make sense of some of the parts of the story which didnt click together within the drama. On the whole the book is focused on the paradise making the love story a side bit and the tv drama focuses on the love story with the Paradise being a side part. Still both book and tv drama seemed to cut off at the ending, is this deliberately making you want to know more? Overall a good story and great to see how tv has changed it to appeal to the audience. Would recommend to Paradise fans out there.
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