All through the month of April, Evangeline from Edwardian Promenade and I are hosting a readalong of the Emile Zola novel, The Ladies' Paradise, which was the basis for the PBS series The Paradise. I'm listening to the book on audio, narrated by Lee Ann Howlett.
On Saturday, Evangeline recapped Chapter One, wherein we met our young heroine–Denise Baudu–and the site of her adventures, an alluring department store called The Ladies' Paradise. Check out Evangeline's post if you need to catch up!
In Chapter Two, Denise crosses the street to The Ladies' Paradise to apply for a job, and we discover working at TLP might not be as glamorous as its shiny window displays suggest. The owner, Octave Mouret, has created a small kingdom under its roof–his kingdom–separated into numerous departments, with almost its own social hierarchy. And while Mouret's not a micromanager, he's not exactly down with the bonhomie, either. When he reprimands the accounting department for joking around, they act like "whipped dogs," and he "plays upon the selfish instincts of his employees," setting them against one another and fostering an atmosphere of not-entirely-friendly competition. Probably why the sales clerks in the drapery department are such a bunch of catty bitches.
When it comes to Mouret, the term wolf in sheep's clothing definitely leaps to mind. He's always charming, he never raises his voice, and he appears to be quite the lover of women–after all, he built a store called The Ladies' Paradise!
|Hey girl, I discounted silks because you look so pretty in them.|
But in actuality, he's kind of a jerk with a massive ego who doesn't care about women at all beyond the money he can get out of them. Bourdoncle, one of Mouret's "lieutenants" and work BFF, predicts:
You know they'll have their revenge... the women. They will have their revenge; there will be one who will avenge all the others. It's bound to be.
FORESHADOW FORESHADOW FORESHADOW
|OMG so shiny.|
Anyway, Denise walks into TLP after spending a good half hour giving herself a pep talk about acting confident, which only partially works. Almost as soon as she walks into the store, she's overwhelmed with the beauty of the merchandise. Mouret spots her and is enchanted by her enchantment with his goods. IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN. Then Denise's eyes meet Mouret's, and she's like *blush*, and he's like, *smoulder*, and everyone else is like, *MASSIVE EYE ROLL*.
Once in the dress department, Denise can't get the catty bitches to tell her where Madame Aurélie, the manager, is or when she'll be back, or even acknowledge Denise's existence. Things aren't looking promising!
Finally Madame Aurélie shows up to reprimand one of the sales clerks and Denise gets her chance at an interview. She totally bombs it: she gets that whole dry mouth thing going, keeps repeating she's very strong for no good reason (you see a lot of weight lifting going on here, Denise?), and she's never worked in a Paris house before. Madame Aurélie is clearly thinking this one's a giant nope, up until Mouret slithers his way into the situation, intrigued by the fact that Denise's uncle owns the old-fashioned drapery shop across the street. You can practically hear the wheels clanking in his head.
Madame Aurélie gives her the "don't call us, we'll call you," line and Denise reluctantly leaves, crushed with how the interview went but not sure if she wants to work in such a place, anyway. On the way out, she meets the equally shy and timid Henri Deloche, also applying for a job at TLP, and they are adorkably awkward together. Is romance in the works? Will Denise get the job? (Probably, the book's titled The Ladies' Paradise and not Au Vieil Elbeuf. The Old Cloth, there's an attractive name for a store!) Questions.
Overall I enjoyed this chapter, although it was a little dry up until Denise walked into TLP and Mouret started making eyes at her. There was also a lot of talk about Jews. Mouret is apparently "a bigger Jew than all the Jews in the world." Yay?
Check out Edwardian Promenade on Friday to read Evangeline's recap of the next chapter in The Ladies' Paradise!
Discus this post with me on Twitter, FaceBook, Google+ or in the comments below.