I’m happy to introduce you into the world that is The Paradise. A period drama filled with characters even a literary icon like Dickens would applaud!
Masterpiece Classic’s new period drama about the first department store The Paradise is based on Emile Zoile’s novel with the same name. The story centers on a Country girl, Denise Lovett, who takes a job at large department store owned by John Moray. The series takes place in 1875 and has all the makings of a Dickensesque drama. Among the trappings and allure of the store Denise finds employment after her uncle’s drapers shop can’t employ her because all the other businesses on High Street are fading under the impressive footprint of the more glamorous Paradise.
Zoile’s characters have a Dickens appeal sure to lure viewers through all the departments and the lives of the inhabitants of The Paradise.
Arthur a young boy, apparently a foundling, who performs all manner of odd jobs at The Paradise seems to be the moral compass of out story, telling Denise that anything she needs he can arrange for her and then the next second indicating where he was born on the premises with no mention of who his parents are. Throughout English literature the name Arthur was given to first-born sons, I won’t make any conjectures here but he has to be someone’s child, the question is whose?
Almost immediately we are introduced to the ‘clandestine’ Mr. Jonas who seems to be the one armed watchdog of our Byronic hero, John Moray. Mr. Jonas lurks, writing in his little black book and is the epitome of the sinister gothic henchman.
John Moray exhibits all the classic Byronic symptoms, a single-minded determination toward his goal, a wife dead under mysterious circumstances, he captures and then enraptures any females he comes in contact with, and has a list of past sexual discretions. Moray is a gambler and salesman whose job is to utterly hypnotize any one who even peaks through his beautifully embellished storefront window. As a matter of fact that’s exactly where he catches his first glimpse of the slightly disheveled young Denise. Moray’s motto ‘A stitch does not make the blood rise,’ certainly applies here.
Miss Audrey is in charge of the women’s department and the stern matriarch who says things like, “Quickly now, to the haberdashery,” as if a customer’s life or death hangs on them acquiring the proper assortment of hats. She is witty and observant, but she wasn’t a marketing major and without Denise’s assistance she’s completely clueless about how to market the promotion of Miss Pink Paradise.
Dudley a young man who grew up with Moray and acts as his assistant tries to be the voice of reason when Moray doubles the inventory for a one day sale. Moray believes that the sale will establish him as the foremost retailer and also get him the loan he requires from Lord Glendenning, his patron. Dudley
is a practical businessman of the day and acts as a counterpoint to Moray’s idea to tempt them with ‘cheaper and cheaper’.
Katherine Glendenning is a spoiled socialite used to having her way. Moray is financially dependent on her father, Lord Glendenning. Katherine is conniving and determined to marry Moray, we haven’t really seen why she’s so in love with him, it’s as if she saw him in a store window and must have him. Katherine asks her father for her mother’s engagement ring so she can give it to Moray and ask Moray to ask her to marry him. I know, what kind of woman would do that? A pushy one! Lord Glendenning says of his daughter, “Darling, I wish your traps weren’t so delightful.” BUYER BEWARE Katherine Glendenning has set a trap for Moray and she even let him rip open her bodice in the dining room to set the snare.
We have an assortment of minor characters: the sarcastic, manipulative nemesis Clara who we soon learn had a thing for Moray and she probably should be taking some Prozac as a result. Sam, the kindhearted counter boy whose generosity soon lands him in trouble. Pauline the fun loving girl just looking to land a husband, any husband would do. And finally, Edmund Lovett, Denise’s disgruntled uncle whose sales philosophy of selling person to person is just a side effect of his dwindling draper business.
Last but not least, we have our heroine Denise Lovett from small town of Peebles. Taking a job at The Paradise, Denise is seen by Moray as a rising star to the annoyance of head of ladies fashion Miss Audrey and shop girl Clara. She is good at what she does even selling Katherine her first ready to wear dress, making fashionable displays that entice customers, and continually saving the day with fresh marketing ideas. When the one day sale is a huge success and Moray is handing out everyone’s bonuses Denise looks on adoringly, Pauline notices and reiterates her thoughts that Denise is indeed interested in Moray. Denise’s response, “I don’t want to be his wife, I want to be him.” Denise is genuine to her self as any true Dickens heroine would be.
We have to wait and see just how long Denise can withstand the most seductive allure The Paradise holds, for Moray has a way of utterly hypnotizing all under his sway.
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Happy reading, reviewing, and drama making!