The Ladies' Paradise
Read by Leighton Pugh
Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames, 1883) plays out in a colossal and opulent Parisian department store of the same name. Its owner, Octave Mouret, builds his innovative, upmarket women’s fashion empire at the expense of the city’s smaller, traditional shops. A self-declared manipulator of women, Mouret not only plays on his female customers’ personal insecurities and social aspirations to keep his takings high, but also exploits his mostly female staff who work long hours in harsh conditions. After a difficult start, one young recruit, Denise Baudu, ends up giving Mouret much more than he bargained for.
Running Time: 18 h 20 m
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Digital ISBN: 978-1-78198-382-9 Cat. no.: NA0518 Produced by: Neil Rosser Edited by: Ross Burman Translated by: Ernest Alfred Vizetelly; updated by Leighton Pugh BISAC: FIC004000 BIC: FC Released: November 21
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Leighton Pugh offers an engrossing narration of Emile Zola’s 1883 cautionary tale of capitalism and the enslavement of women to consumerism. The Ladies’ Paradise, a Paris department store, is the brainchild of Octave Mouret. When 20-year-old country girl Denise Baudu arrives in Paris, she is transfixed by the amazing store and is romantically drawn to Mouret. Pugh’s Parisian French is faultless as are his voices for the many characters. He excels at his delivery of Zola’s exposition on women’s inability to resist shopping, the economics of how one big store puts smaller stores out of business, and Mouret’s revolutionary idea of using advertising to encourage patronage. Zola provides a fascinating look at 19th-century capitalism and changes in culture, class relations, and sexual attitudes. Pugh makes it all compelling listening.