Belle Epoque

Belle Epoque

Book - 2013
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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. 
   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.

A YASLA William C. Morris Award Finalist

A Junior Library Guild Selection

"Both touching and fun, this is a story about many things--true friendship, real beauty, being caught between two worlds--and it will delight fans of historical fiction."-- Publishers Weekly

"A refreshingly relevant and inspiring historical venture."-- Kirkus Reviews

"A compelling story about friendship, the complexity of beauty, and self-discovery...full of strong female characters."-- School Library Journal

"With resonant period detail, elegant narration, and a layered exploration of class and friendship, this provocative novel is rife with satisfaction."-- Booklist

"Much to offer a contemporary YA audience...flirtation and match-making to tantalize romance book-club fare."-- The Bulletin

"This delectable Parisian tale left me sighting with sweet satisfaction. J'adore Belle Epoque !"-Sonya Sones, author of What My Mother Doesn't Know and To Be Perfectly Honest

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Delacorte Press, 2013.
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780375990052
Branch Call Number: YA ROSS E
Characteristics: 327 pages ; 22 cm.


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Aug 03, 2017

Ever get tired of books that invariably describe the heroine as "Beautiful" or at least "pretty"? Welcome to "Belle Epoque", (Beautiful Time). It certainly isn't a beautiful time for teenage Maude, who finds that her plainness nabs her a posh job posing as a companion for marriageable daughters of ambitious mothers. She acts as a "foil" to make her employers look prettier by comparison. Fans of "The DUFF" (and smart, daring girls in general) will love this one.

FindingJane Nov 23, 2014

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.

Nov 10, 2013

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.

JCLBarbaraL Jul 29, 2013

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!

m2 Jul 08, 2013

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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