The Paradise: A Novel (TV Tie-In) (Les Rougon-Macquart) Paperback – 4 Sep 2013
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About the Author
Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart, is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of twenty novels which Zola wrote over a period of twenty-two years."
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As for the romance, the real joy here is seeing Mouret falling slowly in love with Denise. We know it and can see it even before he does. For her part, Denise is at first distracted by a crush on a fellow salesman, her own poverty, and taking care of her brothers, to realize that she is attracted to Mouret. That comes later. One wonders what she sees in this man, who is so contemptuous of women, takes lovers and tosses them out when he is through with them, and is responsible for the destruction of the small shop keepers in the area, some of whom are members of Denise’s own family. As for Mouret, he is made a better man by his love for Denise. She is at once beautiful, smart, poised and kind. Mouret doesn’t know what to make of her.
Their love is mostly chaste in the novel, as Denise is afraid of giving in to Mouret – probably due to his past. Her refusals of his advances makes his love, understandably, more intense. But the scenes between these two – weather they are walking together in silence on a Paris street, or alone together in his office, or in a backroom where the staff have left them alone on purpose while Mouret pours his heart out to Denise – are fueled with such sexual tension that no groping or kissing is needed to feel the desire between these two.
Someone mentioned that Denise had no ‘ideas’ in this novel like she does in the BBC production. This is incorrect. She understands the changes taking place in the business of the day, and she and Mouret have a discussion about it. She also uses her influence with Mouret to secure better working conditions for the sales staff. Denise is tormented by what the Paradise is doing to the small shop keepers, but believes in market mechanisms of the new order. She is not without heart, but realizes these forces cannot be turned back.
Some have also complained about the descriptions of the department store going on and on in the book. I would say to future readers of this novel to stick with it and not to skip any sections to try to get to ‘the good parts’. The descriptions of the lavish layout of the departments, as well as the store operations and the politics among the staff are vital to understanding the story and the place of the two main characters in it.
Add to all of this Denise’s rags to riches story where she gets her handsome prince and you have a great novel. I cannot begin to explain how beautifully Zola is able to write, and how vividly his characters come to life. Obviously this English translation is perfection.
As for the romance, the book's Mouret is unlikeable and creepily obsessed with Denise for no other reason than the fact he cannot have her. He is miserable over her refusal and childishly sulks, but can be temporarily distracted by shiny baubles. Denise in the book also lacks the business acumen of her series counterpart and while her decision to initially refuse Mouret is valid, she is incapable of reevaluating her stance as the situation changes.
On the whole, the book was an interesting read, but contains much less romance and more realism than the series.
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