Upon my husband suggestion, a few days ago, I embarked upon a new show: BBC’s The Paradise. Based upon Emile Zola’s novel The Ladies’ Paradise, it follows a young woman named Denise Lovett who comes to the big city to work in her uncle’s drapery shop. Unfortunately, business is so poor that he cannot offer her a wage. The singular shops along Tollgate Street – the draper (dressmaker), milliner, haberdasher, cobbler – are falling into ruin because of The Paradise, a great new department store which has opened in Tollgate street and is attracting all the customers.
Worried by the fact that her uncle cannot offer her a place, Denise is fortunate enough to spy a shop girl being evicted from the premises that very morning. She applies and is taken on as the newest shopgirl in Ladieswear at The Paradise. Denise Lovett proves more than equal to the task, even under the most imperious Miss Ashley, who rules over the department with an elegantly iron fist. Denise is talented and a visionary when it comes to selling clothing to upscale ladies, marketing, and getting the name of the Paradise into the ears of the populace. The most apt line for series 1, in my opinion, was this small statement: “I don’t want to marry Moray. I want to be him.” The passion for The Paradise has caught Denise as soon as the story begins.
As we go, we meet the people who are the life and blood of The Paradise – Mr. John Moray, his partner Mr. Dudley, Pauline, Sam, Clara, Miss Audrey, Arthur, Mr. Jonas, and Mr. Lovett in his drapery shop across the street, along with Lord Glendenning (an upper class) and his grasping daughter Lady Katherine,with whom Mr. Moray is entangled from the first we see him.
As with all of BBC’s period dramas, The Paradise is sumptuously costumed and gorgeously set. The realm of Ladieswear and the glittering counters of The Paradise draw even me, a woman who has grown up in the normalcy of the department store. The gowns, gloves, and hats call to the Victorian woman that inhabits my soul, and she rejoices. I am as of yet unsure how I feel about the end of series 1. It does end on a happy note, but with that sense that it is that burst of sunlight just before the storm clouds roll in.
Series 2 releases in late April so we shall see if my gut holds true.