The Ladies Paradise is a modern department store in nineteenth century Paris owned by the innovative Mouret. It is suppose to be the store that delights women by meeting all their needs and whims in one place, with low prices. Denise Baudu moves from the country to stay with her Uncle after her parents die. She is trying to support two younger brothers, but cannot manage on her own. She discover that her Uncle's business is failing due to the success of the large department stores. Denise must find work, and gets a job at The Paradise.
I thought it was interesting in some parts, but dragged in some places due to all the discriptions. The store and the products are described in great detail to the point you start to lose track of the dialogue and events. To be fair, Zola wrote this book to illustrate capitalism, modern ways, and the changes in consumer culture and class. I think the underlying message about capitalism and change also overtook the story.
This is part eleven of Zola's Les Rougon-Macquart cycle. It follows a family in the Second French Empire, and shows how environment and heritage form a family. This is the only book in the series I have read, and I do not think the other books need to be read to understand what is happening. It is possible that reading the rest of the series might make certain characters actions make more sense, and perhaps give them some of the development I would look for. It might also make the characters stand out more against the messages about capitalism.
It was an okay book, but just as I would get interested in what was happening with the characters I would get lost in descriptions or long speeches that inform us more about capitalism than the plot. If you are a fan of Zola, I would recommend this book.