Zola’s original French publication, Au Bonheur des Dames (“The Ladies’ Delight”), published 1882, is the eleventh novel in his Rougon-Macquart series. This English translation by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, was published in 1886. It’s a glitzy, fast paced Parisian drama depicting life at the world’s first department store, revealing its many innovative marketing concepts, fashion, glamour, lust, greed, courage, deception, human foibles, and the vision and financial risk-taking that led to a world transformation in shopping — one that set all the little shop keepers on their heads. All this is contrasted by our heroine Denise, a young sales woman who struggles through financial hardship, back-stabbing friendships, and incredible temptations with a quiet courage that helps her rise to the top. As she passes through fire and emerges from it unscathed, we get Zola’s masterful depiction of social upheaval and feminine resistance to evil.
A few years ago, one of my colleges at Librivox asked me if I would be interested in reading The Ladies Paradise. She thought my slight European accent would work perfectly for the originally French book and the delicate but string main character, Denise. I agreed, and after years of on-and-off productivity and life struggles getting in the way, it is done. I might be one of the projects I am most proud of, and it has followed me through some very interesting and challenging years. It has been a joy to follow Denise in her path through failure and success, and I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed reading it.
With over 16 hours of entertainment, it can be found for free here: https://archive.org/details/theladiesparadise_1711_librivox