Thursday Tea (April 8): The Ladies' Paradise

Thursday Tea Thursday Tea is a weekly meme hosted by yours truly. To play along, all you need is some tea, a book, and the answers to these questions: what tea are you drinking (and do you like it)? What book are you reading (and do you like it)? Tell us a little about your tea and your book, and whether or not the two go together.

The book: I’m currently about halfway through The Ladies’ Paradise by Emile Zola (also known as The Ladies’ Delight). I have to read it for a class, which automatically made me suspect I’d hate it (I generally do, whenever I’m forced to read a book for a grade), but actually– surprise! I really love it!

I don’t want to go too deep into what I enjoy about the book because I’d just be repeating myself when I review it, but I suspect part of the reason I’m liking it is because of the translation. It’s by Brian Nelson, and it is, I think, a really good one. It makes the text sound almost modern, which is infinitely easier for me to read, and yet it keeps the vibrancy and the, I don’t know, joie de vivre Zola put into his books.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to writing my review, and to finally have something to talk about in that class! (I haven’t finished any of the other books we were supposed to read, so I haven’t been able to participate in the discussions. But now I can. Ha!)

Here’s a summary:

The Ladies Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames) recounts the rise of the modern department store in late nineteenth-century Paris. The store is a symbol of capitalism, of the modern city, and of the bourgeois family: it is emblematic of changes in consumer culture and the changes in sexual attitudes and class relations taking place at the end of the century.

The tea: I’ve still got a big pile of Super Irish Breakfast tea packets, so I’m drinking a cup of that this morning. It’s nice! I think I prefer SIB over Earl Grey and English Breakfast– it just tastes fuller, I think?

Do they go together? Oh, sure! For one thing, the characters drink a lot of tea. Not as much as British characters would, maybe, but they do drink quite a few cups, along with wine and coffee and cordial and so on. Now, does the flavor of SIB go with this book? That’s a tougher question. I’m going to have to dither between “yes” and “no,” because while the full flavor of SIB goes with the view of Paris that Zola is presenting (its backbone is commerce, basically? Which is a very solid sort of backbone, even with fluctuations like inflation) I can’t help but think that something more fruity would go better with the whole “giant superstore that is trying new things out in order to make people buy more” thing. Something surprising and new, to go with the surprising and new things Mouret is trying with his store.

Is that analysis trying to hard? I really need to get to class to talk about this book! But alas, I’ll have to wait until Tuesday. Dang.

What are you drinking/reading this Thursday?

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