Au Bonheur des Dames Comes to PBS… sort of.

Confession time: I must have read Émile Zola’s department store novel “Au Bonheur des Dames” over a hundred times. Its main characters, Denise Baudu and Octave Mouret, are my Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. And unlike pretty much every other books written by Zola, “Au Bonheur des Dames” has a happy ending and I just can’t enough of it. “Oh! monsieur Mouret, c’est vous que j’aime!” Sorry… spoiler alert 😉

The paradise, PBS series, au bonheur des dames series

Photo Courtesy of BBC UK.

Why am I mentioning this now? Because after “Call the Midwife”, “Mr. Selfridge” and ubber popular “Downton Abbey,” PBS is premiering “The Paradise” tonight (October 6, 9PM.) And this new BBC Masterpiece Classics series is, you may have guessed it, loosely based on “Au Bonheur des Dames” (English title: “The Ladies’ Paradise.” Get it? The Paradise.) Denise is still Denise, a young girl of modest means who moves to the big city with little money and big dreams. She scores a job as a sales clerk in a modern department store where Octave Mouret, still the charming, widowed store owner, is now John Moray. His hugely successful retail enterprise is still crushing all the little mom-and-pop shops in the neighbourhood, including the one owned by Denise’s uncle.  It’s still a story of love and seduction but also of ambition, class division and capitaism. Monsieur Mouret Moray still uses women to get ahead and Denise is torn between her admiration for Moray’s innovative genius, her desire to be a modern woman and her loyalty to her uncle and all the other small shop owners. The biggest difference is perhaps that the action no longer takes place in Paris but in some Northern England town instead. Womp womp. Oh well, the reviews so far are pretty good. And while I’m pretty sure that no adaptation of my favourite book of all times will ever match my unrealistically high expectations (other than Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy… do they ever?) I’m still definitely tuning into PBS at 9PM tonight for the 2 hours series premiere. And I might even pick up the book and re-read it one more time too…

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