This is my first book for the Back to the Classics challenge, and I was disappointed in it. I decided to read it after watching the series on BBC, which I liked (except for the ending). I knew from a review on Amazon that the stories wouldn't be the same, so I was interested to see what changes were made to it for the TV series. The stories were so different as to be almost unrecognizable. But my biggest disappointment in the book was the lack of character development. I never felt like I got to know any of the characters.
The story is set in Paris in the late 1800's and is about the department store called The Ladies' Paradise, which had many similarities to the big box stores of today: through sheer size and predatory practices, it is able to ruin the small independent stores. Pages and pages and PAGES are devoted to descriptions of the store and the merchandise. The arrangement of the store is much like modern grocery stores, which require customers who want to pick up just a few items to travel through most of the store in hopes they will purchase impulse items.
It shows the rise of consumerism in the late nineteenth century. But the level of disdain the author shows towards women made it very hard for me to read. Not only are the women not respected, but the men take advantage of them and no one is likable. The story mainly follows Denise, a young woman who goes to work at The Ladies' Paradise. At the start, she is hated by all of the other employees. By the end of the book, everyone loves her, including the owner of the store, but we're never really shown what brought about the changes. I rate this book 2 out of 5.