“The Ladies’ Paradise” by Emile Zola takes a fantastical look into the world of booming capitalism in 1860’s Paris. Like many readers, I myself had some background into what took place during the period of the Industrial Revolution, and its huge shift forward into a new way of life; however, Zola’s novel takes a quaint look on the nuances that accompanied this movement. Imagine both a first-person account and a grand bird’s eye view of a story wrapped into one- this is what the reader will find upon opening this book.
The novel itself goes down smoothly, with enough lively descriptions to keep readers entertained, but not so many that the work becomes just that: work. The sentences and chapters blend together in a beautiful way that engaged me in the character’s lives and futures. The players in this novel range from villainous to terrifically fragile, and everywhere in between, leaving not a dull moment within its pages. The author has a certain way of truly managing to invest his audience into the demolition of the city’s interpersonal workings, leaving readers in a delicate state: entranced enough to turn the page and discover more, yet so heartbroken that they almost refuse to. This is the beauty of the infusion of naturalism in the novel’s structure.
This book is ideal for someone willing to be swept away in the romance of a golden-age ideal. Readers will experience the sorrows, the joys, and the moments of anger parallel to the story, and will be enraptured with pure interest. The contrasts between the humble cottage workers and the larger than life monopoly that consumes them brings the reader to the point of awe, as they watch the main character tip-toe the line between morality and success, and ultimately plunge into the depths of her final choice.