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on 1 November 2012
Having started to watch the current TV adaptation of this novel and noticed that it came from the Emile Zola novel I decided to read the book, although the language is very different to the type of novel I would normally read these days it was thoroughly enjoyable and has encouraged me to read more of Zola's work. The language is rich and full of adjectives, the sentences incredibly long but with a pace that carries you along, you are drawn into Moray's dream of conquering the women of Paris in the mid 1800's making you wish to have been part of it. I finished the book in a few days and was sad to reach the end, I don't believe that Zola wrote a sequal which is a shame as I would love to know how the story carried on. The TV series is ongoing and it will be very interesting to see how it finishes in relation to the book.
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on 22 June 2012
This is a good read spoiled by a very poor translation from French. It was a done in the early part of the 20th century and as such is stilted and annoying. The paperback version has a better translator.
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on 18 May 2013
I was inspired to read this after seeing the television adaptation. I very much enjoyed it, Zola's attention to detail is wonderful. It is very much a 'love against all odds' story, told beautifully, leaving me cheering for the heroine Denise the end.
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on 2 January 2013
Many years since I read Emile Zola. A beautifully written novel. It has inspired me to read more of his works now.
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on 8 December 2012
I haven't read any Zola for years and really enjoyed getting back into it. Full of evocative descriptions, perhaps a little overblown in style by today's standards but still an enjoyable read. There are few similarities between this and the TV series - apart from some names and the ultimate conclusion. Zola's story has the same lead characters but their lives are much more complex than the TV series and the store is indeed a Ladies Paradise, it's vast! Peopled with an array of interesting characters, it's a fascinating view into Parisian life in the 19th century, and I enjoyed it immensely
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 April 2016
I gave this 5 stars in the original French, but found this English version useful only to check a few points, like the names of fabrics!

Since I associate Zola with grim, unrelenting tales of exploited coal miners, the theme of a Paris department store dedicated to delighting women seemed at first uncharacteristically tame and frothy. In fact, behind its plate glass and eye-catching displays, “Au Bonheur des Dames” proves to be as dominating and exploitative as any industrial factory, its shop assistants, clerks, packers and delivery men mere cogs in the machinery, as controlled as any industrial worker, on the mass production line of retailing.

Beneath his charm and apparent empathy with women and their love of fashion, inspired entrepreneur Octave Mouret is in fact a cynical manipulator: he is not only a casual seducer, but views his female customers as an inexhaustible captive market to be dazzled by his marketing ploys and all too readily induced to fritter away their husbands’ money on the material goods he displays with such alluring skill. His sponsor Baron Hartmann warns him that one day women will “get their revenge” but Mouret is knocked off course where he least expects it by the sweet, unsophisticated but stoical country girl Denise Baudu, who is quick to grasp that the department store is a part of inexorable progress, but steadfastly sticks to her personal principles.

In vivid if wordy descriptions, Zola describes how the magnificent store looms over the surrounding gloomy alleys, further cutting them out from the sun. These are the haunts of the resentful traditional shopkeepers who persist in their stubborn and ultimately fruitless struggle to survive, when they cannot realistically hope to compete with Mouret’s drastic discounts and huge variety of goods. The scale and brightness of his store, with the light pouring in through glazed roofs, and the Lowry-style bustle on the metal staircases and galleries, as far as the eye can see, creates the idea of a self-contained community, which Zola sometimes calls a “phalanstery” after the C19 ideas of Charles Fourier for a utopian community.

Yet, although the workers are housed and fed in a paternalistic way, the shop is far from utopian: staff are not allowed to have visitors in their rooms, women have to leave when they become pregnant, and in the summer months of slack demand, assistants are dismissed for the slightest imagined misdemeanour. Not surprisingly, they often resort to scams to swindle the store, and the smallest rumour or incident is exaggerated and spread on the gossip grapevine. Although the customers look down on the assistants who must be ladylike without being accepted as ladies, they often behave badly, not merely overspending on luxuries and abusing the “returns” policy, but even resorting to shop-lifting.

Just as the store seems very topical in these times of zero hours contracts, class divides and the ravages of competition, Zola’s characters are real in their flaws and complexity. There are also some moments of comedy amongst the exhausting materialism of the store contrasting with the suffering of the impoverished small shopkeepers.

The novel is best read in French, although the exhaustive lists of specialised fabrics and some of the dated procedures forced me to resort to English translations. These vary a good deal in quality, so it is advisable to check them out before purchase. Some come with interesting introductions, to be read afterwards to avoid spoilers. This kindle translation is far too literal - hence very stilted and wooden in places. Also, not easy to read in conjunction with French kindle version!!
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on 17 November 2012
I have watched one episode of The Paradise on the iPlayer but was intrigued who wrote it and found as I thought, it is by Emile Zola. So I found the book on Kindle and have just started it......but just enough to confirm my suspicions that the original story was set in Paris. What a gross liberty the BBC have to reposition it in the north of England.

I now intend to read the proper story written long ago by a well known author. I have not bothered to see any more episodes of the tv show. You cannot beat the classics and I have many saved onto my Kindle.
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on 15 January 2013
Having read most of Emile Zolas' books was curious to read this one especially after the very loosely based serialization on T.V.
The book is preferable having all the 'grit' and realism for which Zola is famous.
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on 5 June 2013
Zola wrote this in 19th century so anyone not used to long descriptive passages might find this novel rather tiresome. However,
I liked the slow build up . "The Paradise" shown on BBC earlier this year was based on this story.
Good characterisation and plot.

However, the translation from French to English was AWFUL - many sentences did not make sense, sentence construction was archaic, vocabulary was suspect and words missing.
When Kindle download stories does anyone check that the translation is accurate and understandable ???

3 stars only because of poor translation.
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on 9 November 2012
I borrowed Ladies' Delight by Zola, translated by April Fitzlyon, from the library. When I had read half of it, it had to go back to the library. So I bought this version translated by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly for my Kindle, so I could finish reading it. (This was the cheapest one.) I found this translation far more stilted than the Fitzlyon version - I guess you get what you pay for!

I always find Zola's accounts of the modernisation of Paris fascinating. I found the buildings and the social changes brought about by the development of the department store more interesting than Denise and her little family, though I would have liked more about Jean's apprenticeship. I agree with a previous reviewer that the descriptions of the departments and their contents did go on a bit - I was skipping whole pages by the end.

All that said, I always find Emil Zola well worth reading.
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