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Belle epoque by Elizabeth Ross

Belle epoque

by Elizabeth Ross

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Society does a number on people. In every era, though fashions change from culture to historical period, certain people are considered attractive and others ugly. For those with beautiful faces, be they rubenesque, sharply skinny, dimpled, butt-chinned, freckled, pale as snow, or dark as obsidian, life always is just that little bit easier. Odds of marrying into wealth or more wealth, of finding people to admire you, of obtaining a position go up because of that face.

In young adult fiction, the current standards of beauty are generally held up and shown to be the ideal. The heroes and heroines are perfection: wealthy, if at all possible, but in almost all cases beautiful by the standards of that time. The average YA character is often described as looking like a model. In such a world, the average cease to stand out and a plain face like Maude Pichon’s can come to the forefront. In a sea of perfectly symmetrical face, the strange and unique are immediately more compelling.

Read the full review at A Reader of Fictions. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | May 9, 2014 |
Five- Stars- This was a unique story that held my interest until the very end. I would recommend to adults and teens- This is a fantastic book to recommend- (Clean Read) I have passed this book on to my oldest daughter- She is loving it so far- I can't wait to read more from this author- Read in two days, hard to put down. Worth the time and money- I won a free copy in a giveaway and I'm so happy to have read this book. I enjoyed this book from beginning to end~ I HOPE THIS AUTHOR WRITES MORE (HOPEFULLY TO GO ALONG WITH THIS BOOK) I WILL PURCHASE BOOK TWO IN AN INSTANT ;) http://reesasbookblog.blogspot.com/2014/03/review-belle-epoque-by-elizabeth-ross... ( )
  Reesa111 | Mar 7, 2014 |
Maude Pichon ran away from her village to avoid a marriage. She robbed her father's store's till and ran off to Paris, city of lights and romance, where the Eiffel Tower is rising taller every day. However, survival in a large city is much less romantic than Maude's daydreams, and she is becoming desperate to survive. In order to support herself, she answers an unusual ad for the Durandeau Agency, where ugly women are hired to set off more attractive ladies of substance. Maude is hired to be the foil to Isabelle, a young lady making her debut, only Isabelle doesn't know Maude was hired by her mother. Maude is trapped between her own survival at the agency and her budding friendship with Isabelle, and she doesn't even know which world she lives in, the poor or the rich . . . ( )
  TheMadHatters | Mar 3, 2014 |
Maude Pichon finds a place among the women of the Duprandeau Agency because she is not pretty. The agency has found it's niche in the Paris business world by selling the services of ugly women to act as foils for the beautiful, making them more beautiful by comparison to their companion. Maude is hired to be the companion of a lovely debutante who is not told the truth about Maude's role. This book takes us into the excess of the Paris drawing rooms and creative turmoil of the Paris cafes, sharing Champagne and Absinthe with a variety of characters. ( )
  SparklePonies | Feb 22, 2014 |
Maude Pichon has run away from her home in the French province of Brittany to escape an arranged marriage. But life in Paris is far harder, and much more expensive, than she ever dreamed. Desperate for work, she takes a job with an agency that offers an unusual service. The company hires plain, unattractive young women to act as foils for high society women. The idea is that the comparison of being next to someone ugly will make the client appear more attractive.

Maude is selected by the Countess Dubern to be a companion for her daughter, Isabelle, during her debutante season. The catch – Isabelle doesn’t know that Maude is hired help. Soon Maude is thrown into the whirl and intrigue of a Parisian aristocratic social season. But as her friendship with Isabelle grows, Maude faces increasing pressure from the Countess to go beyond the role of beauty foil to spy on Isabelle and influence her actions.

The first thing I loved about this this book is the setting, 1880′s Paris. I enjoyed the glimpses of the bohemian lifestyle of artists and musicians and cafes in contrast to the glittering aristocratic society all against the backdrop of the building of the Eiffel Tower. The second thing that appealed to me was that this enjoyable story really does a great job of exploring the concept of beauty. Does being seen next to someone who is less beautiful really enhance someone’s appearance? Plus, the toll the job takes on the employees’ self-esteem is appalling. They are constantly being judged only by, and openly reminded of, those traits that others perceive as faults.

Then there is the economic pressure on the girls, forcing them to put up with the humiliation of the position. What other options do they really have? The desire to maintain both the illusion of a place in aristocratic society and maintain a decent standard of living influence Maude’s decisions regarding her friendship with Isabelle and others. She may not agree with what the Countess is doing, but what choice does she have if she doesn’t want to be fired and end up destitute?

I have a few small quibbles with the story. Maude, the country grocer’s daughter with the provincial accent and manners is able to fit in with the aristocrats too easily. The end also seems to wrap up a bit too neatly. But overall, this was a very good book that I really enjoyed reading. It would make an excellent choice for a book discussion group, exploring as it does the ideas of beauty and social class. Those looking for a good story won’t be disappointed while those who appreciate a bit more social commentary will definitely enjoy Belle Epoque.

I read Belle Epoque as part of The Hub’s 2014 Morris Award Challenge. ( )
  AngelaCinVA | Jan 4, 2014 |
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There are two ways of spreading the light:
to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.
- Edith Wharton
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"Perfect, just perfect," says the stout man.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385741464, Hardcover)

When Maude Pichon runs away from provincial Brittany to Paris, her romantic dreams vanish as quickly as her savings. Desperate for work, she answers an unusual ad. The Durandeau Agency provides its clients with a unique service—the beauty foil. Hire a plain friend and become instantly more attractive.

Monsieur Durandeau has made a fortune from wealthy socialites, and when the Countess Dubern needs a companion for her headstrong daughter, Isabelle, Maude is deemed the perfect adornment of plainness. 

But Isabelle has no idea her new "friend" is the hired help, and Maude's very existence among the aristocracy hinges on her keeping the truth a secret. Yet the more she learns about Isabelle, the more her loyalty is tested. And the longer her deception continues, the more she has to lose.  

Inspired by a short story written by Emile Zola, Belle Epoque is set at the height of bohemian Paris, when the city was at the peak of decadence, men and women were at their most beautiful, and morality was at its most depraved.  

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:29:47 -0400)

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.… (more)

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