The Ladies' Paradise, Paperback Book

The Ladies' Paradise Paperback

Part of the Oxford World's Classics series

3.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


The Ladies' Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the spectacular development of the modern department store in late nineteenth century Paris.

The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family; it is emblematic of consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century.

Octave Mouret, the store's owner-manager, masterfully exploits the desires of his female customers.

In his private life as much as in business he is the great seducer.

But when he falls in love with the innocent Denise Baudu, he discovers she is the only one of the salesgirls who refuses to be commodified.

This new translation of the eleventh book in the Rougon-Macquart cycle captures the spirit of one of Zola's greatest novels of the modern city. ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 480 pages, 1 map
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199536900

Other Formats



Free Home Delivery

on all orders

Pick up orders

from local bookshops


Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

A brilliant book about the retail industry. It's about daring schemes to cut prices to the bone, and how that means pressure to increase turnover so that a smaller percentage of profit on many sales outweighs a larger profit on few. And it's about how it feels to work in retail, the necessary small insincerities, the infuriating situation of not being able to answer back no matter what, the office politics on the shop floor, the exhaustion and sore feet and meticulous tedium of keeping control of the stock, the mutual disdain between big store and independent shop. It's a negative take on the job, but recognisable. Oh, yes. There is a love story in there too. This grips me less, as the principals are exasperating.The heroine Denise is Cinderella, she's Patient Griselda, she's King Cophetua's beggar maid. She is abused and overwrought and made a drudge by family, by bosses, workmates, customers and passing strangers. Her angst is vast. She's fate's punchbag. The hero, if I must call him that, treats her appallingly too. All through the insults, the sacking (unmerited of course) the starvation, the reputation for whoring, the consumptive cousin, the explosive umbrella carver, the crisis scene when she has to fit a haute couture coat on the shoulders of her rival, Denise remains brave, noble, uncomplaining and with - her one identifying feature - great hair.Mouret - Henry VIII to her Anne Boleyn - is not much of a prize. He's a visionary businessman who rants and struts the Paris afternoon tea party scene. A less charismatic business partner functions to worry over the balance sheets. It takes Mouret a long time and chapters of pining to work out that offering Denise's own weight in gold will not get her in bed. She wants enough to go round the third finger of her left hand. The book is studded with set pieces; detailed verbal pictures of habedashery displays, the forming of an architectural facade, the dispersal across town of horsedrawn delivery vans. The foreword assures me these are much admired.

Review by

Depending on how you look at it, <i>The Ladies' Paradise</i> is either a story of a romance across lines of class and wealth, or it's a story of sexual harassment. The Ladies' Paradise is a rapidly expanding department store in 19th century Paris. Its growth is driving the neighborhood's small retailers out of business. The owner, Octave Mouret, is a young widower who has affairs with society women and shop girls. Denise Baudu, a recent arrival from a provincial town, is the young niece of one of the struggling retailers and a surrogate mother to her two younger brothers. Denise does not have affairs with either wealthy men or fellow salesmen. There is a battle of wills between small retailers and big business, social welfare and capitalism, and, on a personal level, Mouret and Denise. I was fascinated by the account of the rapid growth of the department store and the change it produced in consumer attitudes and behavior. I wasn't so fascinated by the romance (if you could call it that).

Review by

Dept store in Paris as it grows. Love between poor Denise, the shopgirl, and the owner, dreamer, planner Octave Mouret. His departments and pricing create closures of small stores ala Walmart.Too wordy for my tastes.

Also by Emile Zola   |  View all







Also in the Oxford World's Classics series   |  View all