Again, this book versus movie is really book versus television show, but continuity is my friend. Today is about The Paradise.
I binge watched the crap out of the show, and then I read the 400+ page novel it’s based on. Aww yiss! If you read my Top Ten Tuesday post from yesterday, you recognize this book from that list. I found it for I think 2 dollars on Barnes and Noble’s website, and the show was on Netflix. All great news.
The show and the book are actually incredibly different. They have the same themes and focus on Denise and Mouret, but they stray pretty far after that. For example, both versions open with Denise coming to live/work at her uncle’s drapery shop. Both Denise and her uncle are alone in the show, but the book shows the uncle with a family and Denise with two brothers.
The first chapter focuses on Denise and her family meeting while The Ladies’ Paradise looms mysteriously in the background. I particularly liked this opening of a novel because it shows you the beginning of every element of the drama. The lengthy chapters helped facilitate that; the book has only 14 chapters and over 400 pages. Each chapter is almost like a story on its own because they are so focused on individual scenes or certain plot points. After the first chapter, the action revolves completely around The Ladies’ Paradise; it’s almost like the store is creating the relationships.
There were a lot of aspects I really liked about Zola’s storytelling. He uses buildings like Gothic writers do, as tone setters and objects to weave the plot around. He even has a ghost wife whose “blood is in the stones.” I’m 1 billion percent in favor of Gothic elements in novels. Zola explains the relationship between Mouret, women, and clothing in the language of seduction; he discusses silks and taffeta in a tone that can only be described as desire. Commerce and desire blend beautifully in this novel and make it unique. Zola does amazing things with commerce throughout the novel; his novel is about people, but it also brilliantly illustrates the story of shifting commerce happening between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He presents the shift in business as an all powerful and consuming force that pales in comparison only to love.
The Paradise (the store) is a big part of the show, but the people come first in this version of the story. First of all, I must tell you that the show is moved to England and everyone’s names are Anglicized; I’m not sure how I feel about that still. The show introduces some new characters and ideas that are geared towards a modern audience, and I think they work well. The show has a bit more of a feminist lean than the book does (no surprise there). The shop workers are nicer in the show; in the book, the characters (except for Denise and Mouret) are flat, and they seem to be Zola’s critique on individuals in society. The show makes everyone a bit more interesting, which I think is necessary for the screen.
I binge watched the two seasons of this show so hard. I loved it! I was very disappointed to learn that more of the show is not coming. It was apparently in a time slot to compete with Mr. Selfridge, another show about a business mogul in the early days of department stores. My question is why can’t you play them at different times and let us have both? I HATE how television executives set things up to compete with similar shows at the same time. Just play stuff and let us watch it. Everybody in the business gets rich, and the public gets great tv. UGH!
Okay, enough of that. I love the show! People drama, love, class issues, women finding their own voices and power, commercial drama. It has a bit of everything, and I kind of want to watch it again right now just because I’m talking about it.
How can you not love Denise and Moray in the show?
I mean, come on! Look how cute they are. Amazing. Love. Story. Right. Here.
In both versions, the audience is forced to cringe and scream at their book/television in frustration because both Denise and Mouret/Moray are stubbornly prideful, and they almost miss out on their super obvious soulmateness.
So which wins?
I’m cheating this week and splitting myself in half because I can’t decide. If you’re looking for history and to satisfy any Marxist literary critic desires you have or really love creative, lengthy descriptions, definitely go with the book. If you’re a romantic, run to this show. Go to it. Better yet, just do both.