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Belle Epoque

Ross, Elizabeth

(Book - 2013)
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Belle Epoque
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Sixteen-year-old Maude Pichon, a plain, impoverished girl in Belle Epoque Paris, is hired by Countess Dubern to make her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, look more beautiful by comparison but soon Maude is enmeshed in a tangle of love, friendship, and deception.
Published: New York [N.Y.] : Delacorte Press, 2013.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 0375990054
9780375990052
0385741464
9780385741460
Branch Call Number: YA ROS
Characteristics: 327 p. ;,23 cm.

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Nov 23, 2014
  • FindingJane rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

The notion behind “Belle Epoque”—using ugly women to enhance pretty ones—is so bizarre it’s almost a shame to realize that Ms. Ross got the idea from a short story by Emile Zola. But the idea of buying and selling women is hardly a new one; the author just gives it a new slant.

Reading Maude Pichon’s gradual change from a country girl to a city lady filled with an inflated idea of her own importance is to be thrilled and saddened at once. We know that Maude is heading for a fall; we just can’t turn away from her headlong plunge into doom.

Paris is also drawn, with all its charm, splendor and grime. When Ms. Ross writes about the city, her descriptions are writ large; her encapsulation of individuals is limited mainly to the agency where Maude works, the pianist/composer she likes and the wealthy patrons she attends. The other denizens of Paris are drawn in broader strokes but there is no sense of bland conformity about them. They are people if not individuals and they each fill their niches in proper order, letting us see them in their different mileaus.

But it is Maude who shines with her quiet strength and fierce determination to rise above her origins. Maude’s journey is both spiritual and physical and it is deeply gratifying to read her realizations about herself and the world around her. She’s hardly a deep thinker; her revelations tend to come in flashes rather than long, considered thought. But when she does come to a decision, she embraces it, casting off whatever wrong-headed thoughts she may have had.

She’s a heroine to admire in a book that is radical, satisfying and sublime. “Belle Epoque” is a petit bijou, just like the city it portrays.

Its refreshing to read a positive story about a girl who discovers her individuality , and in a airbrushed celebrity driven world like today, a story like this that contains positive messages about body image, self esteem and inner beauty ( which is just the icing on a cake for a entertaining and enjoyable story) is just what teen girls need today. Gorgeous writing beautifully evokes Belle époque Paris.

Nov 10, 2013
  • goofy rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

I enjoyed this novel immensely. The author did a wonderful job researching the setting of Paris in the 1800s so much so that I felt that I was transported to that era. I liked how this book was not focused on romance, but was a character driven story.

Jul 29, 2013
  • JCLBarbaraL rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This was a fascinating look at Paris in the 1800s and a great story about the meaning of friendship and beauty. The concept of hiring a "beauty foil" to make a socialite more attractive was intriguing. I was caught up in the time period, the characters, the storyline and Maude's dilemma. Maude makes some difficult choices but the overly satisfying ending may be a little too neat for some. I found her friends' easy forgiveness of her after her harsh words, a little too hard to digest, but other than that, a great read!

Jul 08, 2013
  • m2 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

I had so much fun reading this! It is clearly a first novel -- she could write better -- but her world-building, her history was thrilling and interesting. When I was done, as an adult, I REALLY wanted more from this time frame, more from the characters, more especially about the amazing Sorbonne experiences to happen for the protagonists' friend Isabelle. So, here's hoping that the author expands on this book -- or writes for adults using the same time frame. Recommended for girls interested in more than what this cover promises and for adults looking for something delightful and light. Still, the book raises some good questions about appearance and how our culture looks at it -- enough for a teen discussion, anyway.

Write more, Ms.Ross.

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Nov 26, 2013
  • JCLBarbaraL rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

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