The Ladies' Paradise, By Emile Zola


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The Independent Culture

Whatever the logical ins and outs of its transfer from Belle Epoque Paris to a northern English city, the BBC's Victorian potboiler has given a new lease of cross-Channel life to Emile Zola's 1883 novel of nascent consumer culture.

Brian Nelson's lively translation of Au Bonheur des Dames, which was inspired by the revolutionary "Bon Marché" department store, reminds us that this was a ground-breaking book about a seismic shift in social behaviour and gender roles: the first shopping-and-striving epic.