The Ladies' Paradise (or, to be precise, Au Bonheur Des Dames) is the novel by Emile Zola, which, sadly, I have not read but which happily, has been recently made into another sumptuous period drama miniseries by BBC.
The plot, of the book at least, is this, according to amazon.com:
The Ladies Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the rise 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 changes in consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century.
Put like this, of course, it sounds rather dry and classic-reading-required-in-class-y. In fact, it is the story of a mega-store and a peek in the lives of the ower and the shopgirls.
I have a passion for reading books in the original language they were written in, so I plan to buy the French version of this book, when I find it, and devour it.
What I found in this story (the BBC version of it, at least) to make me fall in love, was something more than the crisp English accents, the colourful gowns and the period detail of a ladies' store.
It was the detail to character, the humanity of the people who were portrayed.
It was the weaknesses and the goodness, found, as I prefer it, in the place one expects the least.
Watching it for the second time, I found out even more about the personalities of the main and secondary characters, about what made them smile and what made them cry.
I am used to discovering such things only in books, and never in movies.
It was a delightful surprise.
As for Denise, well, she is my new role-model.
I do not think it is passive to be calm and smiling in the face of evil. I think it requires great character strength, and although I am looking forward to discovering her all over in the book, the Denise of The Paradise on BBC, was a breath of fresh air.
She does not fight those who would undermine her with cutting words or careful schemes. She is trying hardest above all to remain true to herself, and I liked that this was rewarded in every episode. Although I would have admired her just as much even had she not been.
Moray on the other hand is a man that makes me stop and think.
He is deeply charismatic, but that brave facade of his hides a great deal of damage. I am not sure that any woman would be safe with him. He thinks too much of himself for that.
That being said however, it amazed me how he grows and comes to terms with his past and softens in the course of eight episodes. There is a depth to his character that every woman, I think, appreciates in a man.
Katherine is a bit of a caricature, for me, but the one I truly loved, was Miss Audrey. There are so many surprises to her, and her character is so formidable and at the same time endearing, that I honestly have no words. She is a perfect combination of harshness and tenderness. Deep down, she is a mother. That's what I think of her. Pauline I adored, of course, and I dare anyone who has watched this to feel otherwise. Clara has her moments where she is truly sympathetic, but for the most part she is a very realistic portrait of a shopgirl at the time. Sam is a great sweetheart, who could help but love him? And Jonas, well, Jonas, is a bit of a questionmark. Surely there is something good in him, but I think mainly he is confused. Confused and hurt. Maybe a little mad too.
Naturally, as you can guess from the above, I have spent almost all of my time for three days now watching and rewatching the eight episodes of the first season.
Taking a break from that, I did some work on Photoshop.
You are free to use the wallpaper below as you like, but please credit when you can.
And, it's not a spoiler, but that's Mornay and Denise in the little pictures on the right bottom. Oh yes ;)
Note: I first heard about this book and the tv show on YouTube, by one of my favourite book vloggers, this is her video where she mentions this book. Her youtube name is astridthebookworm. Thank you, Astrid!